Taste of Beirut : 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More
by Joumana Accad
Joumana Accad, creator of the blog TasteOfBeirut.com, is a native Lebanese, a trained pastry chef, and professional caterer. In her debut cookbook, The Taste of Beirut, she shares her heritage through exquisite food and anecdotes, teaching anyone from newbies to foodies how to master traditional Lebanese cuisine. With over 150 recipes inspired by her Teta (grandmother) in their family’s kitchen, Accad captures the healthful and fabulous flavors of the Middle East and makes them completely accessible to home cooks.
Even more than a fabulous Lebanese cookbook, The Taste of Beirut is a proud celebration of people, culture, and cuisine.
My review [rating=4]
Apart from the fact that the book has mouth-wateringly good recipes, it’s so well organized that it’s a breeze to access recipes. The recipes are well-written with step-by-step instructions (how I hate a recipe that’s all over the place or where the author mentions an ingredient and forgets to tell us what to do with it!!). The book is divided into sections:
- Breads, Breakfast and Brunch. The eggs poached in tomato stew (Beyd Bel-Bandoora) caught my fancy, as did the taro in citrus-tahini (Kolkass Bel-Arnabiyeh).
- Sandwiches and Soups. Here it was the yogurt cheese and veggie roll-ups (Arooss Labneh) and mixed vegetable soup (Shorbet al-Khudra).
- Mezzes: Dips, Finger Foods, Salads and Sides. Beet hummus (Mama dallou’a) sounds fab as do the mini meat pies (sfeeha).
- Salads and Sides. It’s the yogurt and cucumber salad (Salatet al-Laban w-Khyar)for me as well as the potato cubes with cilantro pesto (Batata Harra)
- Main courses. Pasta with yogurt sauce and the white beans with cilantro in tomato sauce (Fasoolia Bel-Zeit) are just some of the yumminess I’ll be trying out soon.
- Rice, Grains, Pasta and Legumes. The red lentil and rice pilaf (Mujaddara safra) reminds me of our the Indian kichdi. I hope to try out the dumplings in yogurt sauce (Sheesh Barak).
- Kibbeh. A mixture of ground beef or lamb, bulgur wheat, and spices, served baked, fried, or raw.
- Seafood dishes. The calamari with red pepper sauce caught my fancy.
- Desserts. Although I most often don’t bother making desserts, the quick and easy baklava seems entirely doable.
The recipes are suprisingly easy to make and I absolutely loved the conversational style of the author. The pictures are fabulous and background and anecdotes that accompanied them are really interesting too.
The author has decicated quite a few pages to ‘Do’s and Don’t of Lebanese Cooking and Eating‘ which can be a great help for other types of cooking too. Sample this:
Lemons are used daily. Press fresh lemon juice and keep it in an ice-cube tray in the freezer. …Lemon rind can be grated and stored in a small bag in the freezer with a tablespoon of olive oil, to throw into a soup or stew at the last minute.
José has a theory when buying recipe books. He says if you learn one tip or get one good recipe from the book you’ve recovered the price of it. I’m sold on his theory and with that one tip alone – the book is worth it. But there’s so much more to this book!
Joumana has gone on to list the main ingredients used in most Lebanese cooking. She has thoughtfully added information of where these can be sourced in the US. I live in India, that many ingredients can be sourced here too – just need to find the Indian names for them. Also, one can source a lot of gourmet and speciality food items on Amazon. However, I was stuck with ‘freezeh’ (roasted green wheat) and checked with my go-to-person for food – Sangeeta Khanna – who told me that in India wheat is not processed while it is green. That’s something I’ll have to make do without for now.
The glossary and alphabetical index at the end make the book a complete must-buy.
I received this book from the publisher, HCI, via NetGalley in return for an honest review.