Basil pesto

September 19, 2020  •  Category: ,

I have this potted basil on my balcony, here in Austin; of course, I had to make pesto. So here it is. It is hard to find an easier recipe. In Italy, people use parmesan. In Nice (France), they use it for soup but don’t bother with parmesan. At least this was what my friend Marcelle Dupuis told me, insisting that in her native Nice, the pistou is just made up of basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. I ended-up making it the Niçois way, because I freeze it and it does not freeze well with cheese. Besides, I was going to use a portion of it for basil hummus.

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Lebanese sandwich (‘arouss)

September 17, 2020  •  Category: , ,

In the US, pita bread is usually small and thick, about 8 inches in width; here in Lebanon, pita bread (called Arabic bread) comes in two sizes (even cocktail size, two inches in width) but the vast majority of people buy it in the large size. The bag of pitas  weighs one kilo (about 2 pounds) and costs L.L. 1500 which is about one U.S. dollar. Bakeries now in Beirut are making whole wheat and gluten-free versions available to satisfy the clientele. 

The pita itself is extra thin. It is used to grab morsels of food during meals and for sandwiches. Traditional lebanese food does not require silverware. People spread the food out in various plates and use bits of  bread to eat it.

A classic sandwich (‘arouss) is one pita spread with labneh (drained yogurt cheese) topped with tomato slices, mint or other fresh herbs, some olives and a drizzle of olive oil. Rolled up and wrapped in paper it is the sandwich that kids take with them to school in the morning or make when they come home from school in the afternoon. Workers will make one at home and take it on the job site.

In the sandwich aka 3arousse above, I slathered labneh, then added cut-up makdous (preserved baby eggplant stuffed with walnuts, red pepper and garlic), avocado slices, olives, cherry tomatoes and fresh mint (a must!).

Hassan Hijazi, a follower of this blog, was recounting the ‘arouss he used to eat coming home from school, with hummus, heirloom tomato slices, fresh mint from their garden and the exquisite olive oil from the Koura region.

Above sandwich was used with a local handmade goat cheese called ambarees sliced tomatoes olives and fresh dill picked nearby in the wild.

Here is a sandwich slathered with muhammara topped with chunks of makdous and some olives and purslane or ba’leh growing in the garden.



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Potato fritters

September 14, 2020  •  Category:

A recipe by one of my favorite Lebanese chefs, Marlene Mattar; she (lucky her!) visited Aleppo, in Syria and created a cookbook based on her travels there. Slightly adapted.

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Fava beans salad in cilantro sauce

September 14, 2020  •  Category: ,

When it is fava bean (aka fuul ) season, folks start selling them in their food carts on the side of the road, piled high in their bright green husks. If these fava beans have been picked young, they can be cooked with the outside tender husk, which eliminates having to shell them one by one and peel them. These beans will not be found in the US in a grocery store, but may be sold at a farmer’s market as their season is short. In most cases, the fresh fava beans are available already mature and can be found all over ethnic stores, Latino groceries or Arab groceries. They will need to be shelled (like fresh peas) and will also need to be peeled, each bean one by one as the outer skin is tough and hard to digest.

 If you like the flavors, but don’t want to bother with the chore at hand, it is perfectly fine to use a bag of frozen lima beans or even fresh green peas!

There are plenty of dishes throughout Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran using fresh fava beans (usually mixed with rice or in a stew with yogurt) and of course, there is the now world-famous falafel using dried fava beans; I also came-up with a panini (bread is toasted, slathered with labneh, topped with fava beans and cilantro pesto. 

Get fresh, young pods from a farmer’s market or Middle-Eastern store.  Cut them into smallish chunks (about 2″), and stir-fry them with some olive oil and chopped onion. The frying should be over medium heat, and should last until the beans start to soften.

Add the mashed garlic and chopped cilantro and continue cooking. Cover the pan and lower the heat. Add a splash of water if necessary and simmer until the beans soften totally. Uncover the pan and serve with quartered lemons or sprinkle some lemon juice over the beans. 


  • 1 pound of fava beans (young, tender, no more than 5 inches in length) or if these are not available, some lima beans or peas or peeled fava beans without their husks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 6 garlic cloves mashed with salt (1 tablespoon of garlic paste)
  • 1 cup of cilantro leaves, chopped 
  • 1 lemon, juiced




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