Rummaging through the kitchen cupboards at my parents’ house can yield interesting discoveries: I found a jar that contained a viscous, caramel-colored paste. Can you guess what it was?
I called the jar’s donor, Um Elias, mountain-dweller, mother of six and seasoned farmer.
Her answer was: ” Debess el-enab, from your grapes!” i.e.
So I set out trying to think up of ways to use this molasses, which was traditionally used to sweeten food in Lebanon prior to the appearance of (disease-causing) refined white sugar.
You can find grape molasses online or at Greek or Middle-Eastern stores.
If you are wondering why you should bother, think about how molasses will not only sweeten your food without any detrimental side effects, but also how it contains minerals and other nutrients from the food that it comes from.
This recipe is from the West Bekaa, a region that has been growing grapes for thousands of years. Adapted from Chef Ramzi’s Culinary Heritage of Lebanon. He says this dish is called smeedeh hamra. Since smeed is the word for semolina, I guess it can be also prepared with couscous.
- 1 cup of coarse bulgur (or fine bulgur), preferably unbleached.
- 1 cup of water
- 2 generous tablespoons of grape molasses (or to taste)
- walnuts or other nuts (optional)
- half teaspoon of rose water and orange blossom water (optional)
- Place the bulgur in a bowl and soak in tap water for 15 minutes or so. After that lapse of time, drain it and set it nearby.
- Pour the water in the pan. Add the grape molasses and stir a bit to dissolve it.
- When the water simmers, drop the drained bulgur and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the grains have absorbed the liquid and are soft.
- Serve lukewarm or at room temperature with some chopped walnuts if desired.
NOTE: The original recipe calls for an equal volume of water and grape molasses, which I thought was excessive. It also calls for drizzling some olive oil on the surface.
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