Taste of Beirut: 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More

Taste of Beirut: 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More

by Joumana Accad


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757317705
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 526,383
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Born and raised in Beirut, Joumana Accad left Lebanon for France to finish her high school education, and then moved to the U.S. permanently where she completed her college education. She later attended a course of study in Pastry Arts at El Centro College in Texas, worked in several bakeries and taught Lebanese cuisine at a health food chain. After having lived in the U.S. for 30 years, Joumana moved back to Lebanon for two years to immerse herself in the local cuisine and complete her work on this cookbook.

Read an Excerpt


Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, I learned culinary traditions upon the heels of my grandmother (Teta Nabiha), who was in charge of feeding us. She was a true artist, and I would sit by her side and watch her create masterpieces: gossamer dumplings, thin as muslin; kibbeh balls rolled to a one-eighth-inch wall; meat pies that she'd patiently stretch out, dipping her fingers in olive oil; turnovers, evenly pinched and tightly sealed by hand.

She'd do her daily marketing by lowering her straw basket, suspended on a rope and pulley, out the window and down to the market four stories below. From above she would inspect the fresh veggies to make sure they were the proper size and free of soft spots. She'd haggle with the vendors and confer with the butcher and the fishmonger.

The rhythms of life in Lebanon were unhurried, meaningful, and steeped in tradition. Food—both the preparation and the consumption—was a celebration of life, something to be savored and enjoyed. The ingredients were always fresh, the vegetables in season, and meat was eaten only once a week or on special occasions.

In 1979, I moved to the United States, where I spent the next thirty years. While raising my American children, I attempted the quixotic task of combining my Lebanese heritage with my fast-paced life, wistfully wishing I could somehow make the two worlds mesh. With so very little leisure time, Americans wanted their food to be convenient and eaten in a hurry, which often meant dishes that came fully prepared from the freezer aisle or a drive-thru window. While this might serve a need, the food is often bland and not the best nutritionally. I wanted to pass on the traditions of my homeland, to show that it is possible to eat delicious and nutritious food—without having to spend hours over a stove.

Since coming to the United States, the American food scene has grown by leaps and bounds. In this book, I will show you how to bring Lebanese tastes and techniques to your home. My philosophy about cooking exemplifies what I believe is a common thread for Lebanese culinary artists: striving to reach the highest flavor quotient with the smallest number of basic ingredients. Lebanese cuisine is not for the sophisticate; it is for the person who values conviviality above all else.

Through easy step-by-step instructions, I will teach you that it is possible for someone with limited time to cook Lebanese-inspired meals—many of them in one hour or less. You will discover a cuisine that is rich and varied, sourced on natural and fresh vegetables and foods. Taste of Beirut will bring the healthful and fabulous flavors of my homeland to your family table.

Do's and Don'ts of Lebanese Cooking and Eating

1. Pita bread is served with every meal in Lebanon. Pita bread is served at every single meal, and comes in three sizes: large (for sandwiches), medium (for dips or as a utensil), and cocktail-size. Pita bread in Lebanon is very thin, less than one-sixteenth inch thin. When ready to serve a meal, use kitchen scissors to cut each piece of bread into four triangles, put them back in the plastic bag, tie and fold the bag, and place it on the table to pass around at the next meal. The unused bread can be stored in the back of the refrigerator without risk of drying out. Bread is used as a utensil at the Lebanese table; you can forget forks or spoons—just don't forget the fresh bread! Pita bread freezes well and can be thawed at the last minute. The bread will warm up gently to room temperature while you set the table and prepare salad. Leftover pita bread is cut into croutons, fried in oil, and drained; most people nowadays prefer it toasted in the oven at 300 degrees F until golden brown. Fried pita-bread croutons are sprinkled on salads (fattoush), as a crunchy layer on all the casseroles (fatteh), as a binding ingredient for veggie side dishes (treedeh), or fried with grilled fish. Toasted pita croutons will keep for a couple of weeks in a tightly closed container in a cupboard.

2. Lemons are used daily. Press fresh lemon juice and keep it in an ice-cube tray in the freezer. Do the same with orange juice or other citrus juice used in cooking tarator sauce (the Lebanese equivalent of mayonnaise) or pudding. Whenever needed, an ice cube of lemon juice can be retrieved easily enough. Lemon juice is used daily in just about everything: salad dressing, sprinkled over soups or stews, when making tarator sauces, and in making mezze items. If time allows, the lemon rind can be grated (first, then press the juice) and stored in a small bag in the freezer with a tablespoon of olive oil, to throw in a soup or stew at the last minute for a boost of flavor.

3. Keep onions on hand. Chop them and sauté them in oil until golden and store in freezer bags with the oil for each dish you are planning to make for the next couple of weeks. Almost every dish requires onions sautéed in olive oil until soft or golden, therefore, having the equivalent of three bags will amply take care of the weekly meals.

4. Use fresh garlic cloves. There is a huge difference in flavor (and nutritional benefits) between fresh and old garlic, so I'd recommend local or at least domestic garlic as opposed to imported. Peel a few garlic cloves; if there is a green shoot, remove it and discard it (the garlic is old). Keep the peeled cloves in a closed jar in the fridge to use when needed. I also like to keep a garlic mortar handy to make garlic paste, which can go into salad dressing, stews, soups, yogurt cheese dips, side dishes, or anything you have cooking on your stove.

5. Fresh herbs are best. Cilantro and parsley are 'blessed' in the Lebanese mindset. Cilantro gives flavor to veggies, stews, and soups. Parsley is the main component of tabbouleh salad and is sprinkled on just about everything else. When possible, use Lebanese parsley, which is delicate, flat-leaved, and silky. So-called Italian parsley is too thick, so I'd recommend organic Italian parsley as a substitute. Wash, dry one or two bunches of each, and keep in a sealed container covered with a kitchen towel. Toss in cilantro pesto at the last minute to add flavor or use it to liven up chicken wings, shrimp, fish, or other chicken dishes. Try it on cubed potatoes, carrots, or taro (or any veggie for that matter). Use it for soups, stews, bean stews, lentils, and in mulukhieh. To save time, make a dozen portions of cilantro pesto and freeze them in an ice-cube tray or in small freezer bags.

6. Keep extra-virgin olive oil in a cruet, always on the table. I'd recommend one imported from Lebanon with a Fair Trade emblem on the bottle. Lebanese farmers drink a sip of the olive oil to make sure it is fit for consumption. If the taste is bitter or too peppery, it is probably bad. Believed to give you superhuman strength and immunity, olive oil is added to yogurt cheese (labneh) in the morning, salad or baked potato, soup or stews, on zaatar spice mix—in short, at every meal every single day of a Lebanese person's life. Olive oil has a mythical aura in the Lebanese folk mindset, as a proverb says, 'Drink your olive oil and break through the wall' (kol zeit w-entah el-heyt).

7. Simplify your spice rack. Traditional Lebanese cooking uses these main spices easily found in your grocery store: cinnamon, allspice (Jamaican pepper), black pepper, white pepper, and nutmeg. There is no need to stock your pantry with a plethora of spices unless you are planning a specific pastry or dish. In Lebanese cuisine, cinnamon is used for savory cooking, and rarely for sweet baking.

8. Incorporate olives into every meal. Olives are called the 'sheikh of the table' (sheikh el-sofrah) for a reason, as they are served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At breakfast, olives are served with yogurt cheese, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh mint leaves. At lunch, the meal will start with one nestled in a tiny piece of pita bread, just to open the appetite. At dinner, they accompany a sliver of hard cheese, like a kashkaval or halloumi, with a side of green beans in tomato stew (loobyeh bel-zeit), for a light and frugal dinner. As the saying goes, 'Bread and olives is the best life can offer' (khobz wzeitoon, ahsan maykoon). Lebanese folks have always believed that frugal living off the earth's bounty, in this case, the olive trees and the wheat fields (bulgur), are sufficient for one's good health and happiness.

9. Tahini is another very important flavoring in the Lebanese kitchen. Consumed daily, tahini provides 20 percent of the calcium requirement in the Lebanese diet. I'd highly recommend a good Lebanese brand, and that you keep one in the cupboard at all times. Tahini is the main component of tarator sauce, hummus (in all its variations), and tuna tagen or kibbeh. Tarator is made in a jiffy with lemon juice and garlic paste, and can dress any cooked seasonal veggie with a pleasant result (potato, green beans, chard, beets, cauliflower, and eggplant).

10. Yogurt and labneh. Yogurt is essential in a Lebanese kitchen. Labneh, which is yogurt cheese, can be made overnight by simply draining the yogurt and adding salt. Yogurt is uncooked for salad or served as a side dish with bulgur pilafs or kebabs, or as a simple meal with plain rice to help cure a tummy ache. Yogurt is cooked as a soup or a stew. It is one of the layers in many casseroles, or is made into a sauce with meat chunks or kibbeh balls. It can be made with either cow's or goat's milk. Goat yogurt is considered finer, more stable to cook with, and much healthier. Ideally, a small dairy farm would supply the yogurt, which could be perpetually remade at home. Making yogurt is easy and does not require a special tool, machine, or skill.

11. Legumes. Legumes (chickpeas, white beans, yellow fava beans, lentils) can be bought canned, rinsed, and reheated in fresh water, or bought dried, soaked overnight, cooked until soft, and stored in freezer bags with one cup of cooking water in one-meal servings. Grab a bag from the freezer when needed and make hummus on the spur of the moment or add to a stew.

12. Meats and poultry. Cook ground meat ahead of time with onions and spices. Earmark each bag for one meal. Freeze and grab it later when needed to stuff kibbeh or veggies, or for rice and spiced meat.

13. Lamb confit. If you are cooking with lamb, store all the residual lamb fat and lamb bits in the freezer in small bags, tightly sealed. Use it to fry eggs sunny-side-up (beyd bel-awarma) in the morning. Simply melt the lamb fat in a skillet over medium heat, slide the eggs into the pan, and fry until the whites are set. Season to taste and serve with pita bread. Another use for lamb fat: Add it to the kibbeh stuffing instead of meat; this is the method used in the rural areas to make do when meat is scarce. A tiny bit of lamb fat can replace lamb confit. Lamb confit was made every fall to stock up the larder. It was kept in jars to use throughout the year to flavor stews, soups, kibbeh, or fried eggs. This is an easy and practical alternative.

14. Nuts are essential. Stock up on pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and sesame seeds. Store them in the fridge or freezer. Boil the almonds or pistachios in separate pans for a couple of minutes, drain on paper towels, and peel when they have cooled, then airdry and store. Sesame seeds can be dry-roasted in a skillet over gentle heat for about thirty minutes until golden, then cooled and stored. All nuts should be kept in small freezer bags. When nuts are used in a recipe, always fry the peeled nuts in a bit of butter or oil until caramel-colored.

©2014 Joumana Accad All rights reserved. Reprinted from Taste of Beirut:. 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

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Taste of Beirut: 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: Taste of Beirut - 175 Delicious Lebanese Recipes From Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes & More Author: Joumana Accad Publisher: HCI Books Published: 9-2-2014 Pages: 320 Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine, Sub-Genre: Cookbooks, Regional & International Cuisine, Lebanese, Middle Eastern ISBN: 9780757317705 ASIN: B00NIVT5TK Reviewed For NetGalley and HCI Books Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 4.75 Stars Delicious Dishes that show off the taste of traditional Lebanese Cuisine. Also are a few tips on the culture and an explanation on the do and don'ts for Lebanese Cooking and Eating. Recipes are concise with easy to follow instructions. Joumana Accad gives us small glimpses into her life through memories. The clear, beautiful photos shoe some savory dishes, but do not lose hope there are more than a few recipes for sweet and tempting dishes as well. My rating of "Taste of Beirut - 175 Delicious Lebanese Recipes From Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes & More" is out of 5 stars.
DaneWeimMama More than 1 year ago
I am a new convert to Lebanese food & this cookbook was simply a wonderful education for me. The recipes are well written, thoroughly explained, & beautifully photographed. I also liked how the recipes were displayed in courses - makes finding exactly what type of dish I'm looking for so much easier. Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
Beautiful illustrations grace the pages of this well written cookbook that includes traditional and nontraditional Lebanese foods. As a woman who has been cooking Lebanese food for almost forty years I found the recipes in this book to be very much like the ones shown to me by my mother-in-law and other Lebanese relatives and friends. I enjoyed reading the comments provided by Joumana and hope to find this book in hard copy to add to my collection. Thank you to NetGalley for offering me the ebook copy to read and review.