Tag Archives: Lebanon

Girl vs. Lebanon

With scant knowledge and even less preparation, I signed up to thru-hike the Lebanese Mountain Trail (LMT), a 30-day, 292-mile trek that traverses the length of the country.  Thru-hiking, the end-to-end hike of a trail, has a well-earned reputation as a fulfilling, yet challenging, endeavor.  As CleverHiker’s Dave Collins describes it, “Completing a thru-hike will be one of the most profoundly rewarding achievements of your life … it’ll also be tough as hell and you’ll wish you were dead.”  That pretty much sums it up. 

The photo above is the cedar tree on the Lebanese flag. It was taken on April 23 which gives you a sense of the weather we encountered. It was one of the best, and most challenging, things I’ve ever done. One of the highlights was the amazing food we were served in guest houses, hotels, and monasteries. In honor of one of my favorite countries in the world, here’s a recipe for Lebanese roasted garlic hummus from my book.

Roasted Garlic Hummus

2 c. chickpeas, cooked or canned, rinsed and drained

1 head garlic, roasted and pureed

1/4 c. warm water

2 tbsp tahini

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 c. Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Chopped parsley for garnish

Paprika, for garnish

Za’atar, for garnish

Combine the chickpeas, garlic, warm water, tahini, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor.  Puree until the mixture is smooth and light.  Adjust the consistency bu adding either a little water or lemon juice.  The hummus can be stored at this point in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 day

To serve:  Allow the hummus to come to room temperature.  Spoon it into a bowl, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley, paprika, and/or za’atar.  Accompany the hummus with crudités, pita or other flatbreads, or crackers.


Happy Birthday Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty!

And thank you, Jimmy Carter. The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed on this day in 1979 by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin making Egypt the first Arab country to recognize Israel. President Carter brokered the treaty. It has been in effect ever since, although there’s been some concern that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political party, would bring it to a referendum. Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, however, has vowed to respect the treaty.

This calls for falafel, the one thing Arabs and Israelis agree on … sometimes. While there has been some dispute as to falafel’s origin, it’s widely-considered to have originated in Egypt and today, is considered the national food of Israel (and Palestine and Egypt and Lebanon). In 2008, a Lebanese industrialist accused Israel of claiming ownership of traditional Lebanese delicacies such as falafel and threatened to sue. Can’t we all just get along?

Israeli Falafel *
1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
6 cloves garlic
1 1/2 T. flour
2 t. salt
2 t. cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cardamom

2 c. vegetable oil for frying

Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along all of the other ingredients. Pulse until they are the texture of a coarse paste. Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Fill a skillet with vegetable oil and heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls using wet hands. When oil has reached 375 degrees F, drop ping pong-sized falafel balls into the oil. Cook until dark brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with a salad and a garlicky cucumber-yogurt sauce (in a pita, or not).

Note: Egyptian falafel uses fava beans instead of, or in addition to, chickpeas, so if you’re interested in that, replace some or all of the chickpeas with fava beans (known as broad beans in Europe).

3 c. Greek yogurt
1 t. lemon zest
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
1 T kosher salt for salting cucumbers
salt and black pepper to taste

Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Discard them. Slice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out liquid. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.

In food processor, puree cucumbers, garlic, lemon zest, and a few grinds of black pepper. Once mixture is well blended, stir into the yogurt. Salt if needed. Refrigerate for at least two hours so flavors come together. Serve over falafel or on its own with pita bread.

Happy 2012!

Okay, Lady Gaga dancing with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg may not stimulate your appetite (but if you’re trying to lose weight, consider bookmarking this page).

Nonetheless, some foods are said to be lucky and eating them on New Year’s Day is said to bring good fortune for the coming year. Fish is said to bring abundance, since fish swim in schools. Plus, eating fish is a symbol of moving forward into the new year. Lentils are round like coins and in Cantonese, garlic is known as “Suin Me” which can be translated as “Plenty of Money to Count.” Herewith three (separate) recipes for Fish, Lentils, and Lettuce with Garlic. I make no promises but they can’t hurt.

Cautionary Note: Lobster should NOT be eaten on New Year’s Day because the lobster moves backwards, symbolizing setbacks.

Pescado al Ajiillo (Fish in Garlic Sauce)
This dish is popular on the Atlantic Coast of Colombia

2 lbs. swordfish or any other white fish, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 t. ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste

Garlic sauce (ajillo
7 garlic cloves, peeled

3/4 c. water
3 T. butter

1/2 c. chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400F. Season fish with cumin, salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish in a single layer. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake until fish is opaque throughout when pierced with a knife, 10 to 15 minutes.

While fish is cooking, prepare the garlic sauce. Place the garlic cloves and water in a blender and blend for about 1 minute. Transfer the garlic mixture to a saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and chicken stock. Stir well and cook for about 7-8 minutes. Transfer the fish to a serving plate and pour the garlic sauce over it to serve.

Lentils with Garlic and Oil
(adapted from Chef Ramzi’s The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon)

1 c. lentils
20  cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed with a pinch of salt
1/3 c. olive oil
dash of allspice (optional)
salt and black pepper, to taste
parsley or scallions, chopped, as garnish

Cook the lentils in a pot with 3 cups of water until cooked. Add the black pepper and allspice if using.  Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the mashed garlic. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes until the garlic is golden. Be careful not to burn. Pour the garlic and olive oil in the pot with the lentils and stir to mix. Serve warm with a sprinkle of chopped parsley or green onion as a garnish.

Good Fortune Stir-Fried Garlic Lettuce
1 medium head iceberg lettuce
1 1/2 t soy sauce
1 1/2 t sesame oil
1 t rice wine or dry sherry
3/4 t sugar
1/4 t ground white pepper
3 T peanut or vegetable oil
3 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/4 t salt

Core the iceberg and separate into leaves. Wash the lettuce in several changes of cold water, breaking the leaves in half. Drain thoroughly in a colander until dry to the touch.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, sugar and pepper. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Add the peanut oil and garlic, and stir-fry 10 seconds or until just fragrant. Add the lettuce and stir-fry one minute. Add the salt and stir-fry another minute, or until the lettuce is just limp. Swirl in the sauce and stir-fry one minute more or until the lettuce is just tender and still bright green.