As Lebanese, we have embraced challenges, crossed oceans, climbed mountain peaks around the globe, learned foreign languages, assimilated and adjusted to strange environments and societies; however, there is one area in which veering from tradition is never done, food.
Every Lebanese restaurant across the world will present a similar menu, with the tabbouleh, hummus, baba ghannouj trio; as a Lebanese, I am expected to cook traditional dishes according to tradition or how everyone’s grandmother or mother made it for generations.
One explanation: Food is our identity and the only tradition that we can still hang on to, despite the geographical distance.
However, a handful of Lebanese chefs have dared use our Lebanese culinary heritage creatively with dishes never attempted before; two names come to mind, Karim Haidar in Paris and London and Maroun Chédid in Beirut.
I respect and revere Lebanese culinary traditions but I don’t see why I am expected to enslave myself to them. We can cook traditional dishes faithfully, but we can also play around with ingredients and techniques; that is what makes cooking fun.
Share your thoughts if you care to!
Here is a sweet tabbouleh, a light, fruity, yet rustic concoction that could be enjoyed for breakfast or a light meal or a snack.
- 1 cup of orange juice, freshly squeezed (2 oranges)
- 1 cup of fine bulgur
- 2 Teaspoons of orange rind
- 1/3 cup of grated coconut
- 7 to 10 mejdool dates
- 1 Teaspoon of orange blossom water
- 1/4 cup of pecans
- 1/4 cup of fresh almonds (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar (or honey or maple syrup)
- 1 Large orange
- 3 Tablespoons of olive oil
- Squeeze the oranges and collect the juice in a bowl; rinse the bulgur under running tap water, squeeze it dry and place it in the bowl with the orange juice; let it absorb the juice completely. Roast the pecans in a 325F oven for 10 minutes. Cool and chop coarsely.
- If using fresh almonds, add them now to the bulgur; cut the dates in half, remove the pit and cut the halves in small chunks. Add to the bowl; add the orange rind, brown sugar (or honey or maple syrup), orange blossom water, olive oil, coconut, chopped pecans into the bowl and combine gently. Peel the orange and cut into segments; add the segments to the salad and any residual juice.
NOTE: This salad will get better if you let the flavors combine for one hour or longer.
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