September 18, 2015
Vol. VII No. 19
Lebanon Seaside
In This Issue
The Mediterranean Sea, above Jounieh, just north of Beirut, Lebanon.

Spotlight on Lebanon

Lebanon is only about the size of Connecticut, yet its cuisine is well known outside of the Middle East for its bold flavors and extensive history. Like other Mediterranean cuisines, the foundation of Lebanese cuisine is made up of grains, pulses, fresh herbs, nuts, olive oil, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin give the food its unique character, along with other key flavoring agents:

Lemon - an essential ingredient for traditional salads, stews, and dips
Olive Oil - extra virgin olive oil is used liberally to flavor fresh vegetables, flatbread, yogurt, and bean dips; regular olive oil is used for cooking
Pomegranate Molasses - a thick, sweet-and-sour syrup made from pomegranate seeds; used to flavor salads and grain dishes
Harissa - a paste made from chili peppers, garlic, coriander, cumin, and olive oil that adds some heat 
Sesame Seeds - used toasted, whole as a garnish or made into a paste (tahini)
Sumac - a tangy spice made from dried, powdered berries of a shrub common in the Middle East; it adds a beautiful dusting of purple to salads, kebabs, and marinades
Za'atar - a spice mixture typically made with dried oregano or thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt; it is sprinkled on top of flat bread, hummus, and yogurt
Rose Water - distilled from rose petals, this aromatic liquid adds a unique flavor to Lebanese desserts.

Mezze: A Way of Life
Similar to Spanish tapas and Italian antipasti, mezze are small plates of food eaten in Lebanon and throughout the Levant, a region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, usually including Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. A couple of dishes can be eaten for a snack, and a dozen or more can make a satisfying meal. Many mezze are staple dishes that can be made in large batches and eaten at any time of day, such as flatbread, labneh (ewe's milk yogurt), and dips or "salads" such as hummus, and baba ghanouj. High quality extra virgin olive oil, pickled vegetables, and a bowl of za'atar are almost always on the table as condiments.

Seasonal vegetables add variety to the mezze table, and salads are served at every meal. The Lebanese are known for tabbouleh and fattoush, two salads that use grains (bulgur, and pita bread, respectively) to soak up the liquid from fresh vegetables and a light dressing made from olive oil and lemon juice. 

For bigger meals, more elaborate dishes such as stuffed vegetables and stews are served alongside staple mezze dishes. Fatteh is a popular stew because it uses up stale bread; old flatbread is layered underneath a rich stew made of meat, pulses, or vegetables, soaking up all the delicious flavors. A dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of pine nuts and fresh herbs complete the dish.

The Arabic verb corresponding to the noun mezze is mezmiz, which loosely translates to "eat, talk and drink." Eating mezze is a social activity, and sharing dishes is meant to bring people together. This Lebanese tradition supports one of the most important messages of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: cooking and enjoying the pleasures of the table with family and friends contribute hugely to good health.

Check out the Lebanese recipes below, and share them with your friends and family.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe. 

Muhammara is a delicious walnut and red pepper spread that can be eaten with pita bread, spread on toast, or used as a sauce or marinade for grilled meat and fish. Its nutty, tangy flavor and bright color make it a great appetizer.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar

Lamb Sfeeha

These Lebanese meat pies will fill your home with the smell of comforting Middle Eastern flavors: lamb, tomato, pine nuts, and pomegranate molasses. They are traditionally served with a fresh cucumber salad and Greek yogurt. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar.

Green Beans

This hearty vegetarian stew is loaded with Middle Eastern spices, and it tastes even better the next day. Any variety of string beans - wax, yellow, haricot vert, flat - can be used. Serve it with warmed flatbread. 

Recipe from Olives, Lemons and Za'atar by Rawia Bishara. Photo:

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



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Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
by Maureen Abood
Taking an ingredient-focused approach that makes the most of every season's bounty, Maureen presents more than 100 irresistible recipes that will delight readers with their evocative flavors. Woven throughout are the stories of her Lebanese-American upbringing, the path that led her to culinary school, to launch her blog, and life in Harbor Springs, her lakeside Michigan town.

Lebanese Cuisine
by Anissa Helou
More than just a collection of recipes, Lebanese Cuisine offers a richly detailed portrait of the crown jewel of Middle Eastern cuisine. Short-listed for the prestigious Andre Simon award in England, it has garnered rave reviews from both sides of the Atlantic.

Classic Lebanese Cuisine
by Kamal Al-Faqih
In Classic Lebanese Cuisine, Chef Kamal Al-Faqih presents 170 dazzling recipes that reflect the full breadth of authentic Lebanese cuisine. With step-by-step instructions accompanied by full-color photographs throughout, this book makes Lebanese cuisine accessible to everyone who seeks to reproduce their favorite flavors and dishes.