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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Wacky Ride to Beirut

On this Wacky Thursday I went crazy taking pictures from a moving car on route to Beirut.

Amazing what you see when you look. This field in the middle of a growing Beirut suburb is an ideal urban farm; fully planted with vegetables as the residential development complex approaches it.

Along the way, you see a handful of the old style Beirut houses that resisted both the bombs during the wars and the temptations of new real estate development.

If you get hungry along the drive, you can holler from your car the seller of Ka'ak - those savoury cakes filled with za'atar for a less than a dollar breakfast.

Even better, you can dream of a leisurely morning in bed away from the traffic with your groceries delivered by the store below your building directly to your a basket.

Beirut has been around since the Phoenician era over 1000 years before Christ; and you can tell by looking around.

The history-of-Beirut lesson continues with the Roman columns that pop up every time you dig a hole in the ground and, if they are too heavy to move to a museum, you keep them as public art.

Including probably the only remanent of the 1973-1992 war.

If you get bored looking at buildings, just look around you at all the colourful trucks on the street.

With my favourite - this potato producers' truck packed with local potatoes.

But my real favourite sight is this old cemetery and church in the middle of Beirut. One trip I will dedicate a full article to it given how beautiful those graves are.

And my least favourite sight is this Arch invading the city (did you know you can get valet parking at most of Lebanon's McDonalds?)

I am glad to be a passenger in this horrible traffic. I'm more glad to have had my camera to entertain me.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

More Lunches

You read Lunches few days ago.

The ritual continues, but with later start time (2:30 pm).

Here's more sampling of the lunches. Enjoy as I nap them off.

This is a joint mom and dad prepared lunch.

Mom made two versions of Kebbeh - a plain fried patties and the 'football' version stuffed with meat, onions and nuts.

And dad made the baba ghanouj

More eggplants than Tahini sauce so you can taste the crunchy eggplants (that are cleaned entirely of their seeds).

Delicious with home made pickles.

Assasa stew remains my favourite meal and mom makes sure it is on the menu every trip.

Made from fresh, not dried beans and served over rice and vermicelli and the infamous pickles.

Mom's roast came out and resting for lunch.

This is not your typical North American roast. It is made of very lean ground beef that is spread thin then rolled (Read Mom's Roasto for full details and recipe).

It is served as it has been served for over 5 decades in this household - with canned vegetables mix heated up with butter.

After all this meat, time for a vegetarian break.

No, this is not a ready-to-eat dish. This is a plate of the ingredients going into Loubieh Bi Zeit.

This is made with Badrieh, the name of a flat green beans that are way tastier than the typical rounded green beans.

The beans are freshly picked from a near by garden.

Cooked with onions, garlic and tomatoes, this dish is a perfect vegetarian meal to balance all the meat eaten this week.

I'm sure eating well, and lots... I will miss those lunches.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

White & Creamy Lebanon

The name Lebanon (Libnan) comes from the Semitic root Labn meaning white. This is in reference to the snow that covered Lebanese mountains year round until a decade ago given global warming.

Labn is also the word for yogurt. So it is very appropriate that I start the list of my favourite white and creamy Lebanese foods with home made Labn. Mom makes it from dry milk - look how thick, white and creamy it comes out.

From Labn we make Labneh - a thickened yogurt that is a typical Lebanese breakfast. While it is mainly eaten spread on a pita loaf, my father likes to serve it on toasted sweetened church bread.

Basma or Knefeh, depending on which part of the country you are from, is a favourite breakfast from my childhood. Served warm, it is three different white cheeses melted under a semolina top and covered with Quater, the Lebanese sweet syrup. Talk about a morning kick off!

The mid-morning snack is Riz bi Haleeb - Lebanese style rice pudding flavoured with rose and/or orange blossom water. The ultimate white and creamy.

And the afternoon snack is Raha - the Lebanese name for Turkish Delight. Typically we flatten a piece of Raha between two plain biscuits. Unlike the Turkish varieties, Lebanese Raha (at least the one I grew up with) is always plain sugar, white and gooey rather than creamy; sprinkled with white icing sugar.

In the evening, and when in season, nothing beats breaking open an Ashta. The insides of this fruit are layers of naturally sweet, white and creamy edible pulp wrapped around large black pits. 

 Too bad Lebanon could not hold on its white and creamy mountains year round.

Monday, 28 October 2013


Nestled on a beautiful hill in the Batroun area of Lebanon, in a 400 years old house, is the most charming winery - IXSIR.

The house was kept in its original design and serves as the tasting area and the boutique.

However, an extension to the east leads into the wine operation part and the caves that are dug right underneath the old house.

And what an impressive operation it is.

The logo is a depiction of grape vine roots and the sun, reflecting the winery's philosophy of matching the right grape to the right soil and sun.

This philosophy translates in IXSIR's grapes growing in five different regions in Lebanon varying in soil, height and temperatures; including an area that is 1,700 m above sea level - one of the highest altitudes in the world.

This allows it to produce true blends including its Altitudes Red 2009 that mixes Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Caladoc and Tempranillo in one amazing dark wine.

The quality of the production is apparent in the taste as well as the attention to details throughout the production.

The building was named by CNN as one of the 12 greenest buildings in the world in 2011.

All areas of operations are naturally cooled and the oak barrels are used for two wines.
Sustainable operations, historical building, quality wines and a charming location make a trip to IXSIR winery a must on your visit to Lebanon.

Now if only I can buy it in Vancouver.

P.S. IXSIR has an agent in Quebec who can arrange delivery to SAQ locations.

Any Quebec readers want to be my personal IXSIR buyer in return for two free bottles? Email me.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Every day at around 1:30, lunch is served.

Dad pops open the wine, mom sets the table and I do nothing but sit and enjoy what is being served.

Here's a sampling of my Lebanese lunches.

Those are wide white beans (not broad beans). 

They are fresh, not dried. They are boiled, cooled then mixed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

Delicious lunch with pita and olives.

Those are wheat kernels.

They are the Lebanese version of pearl wheat.

My mother soaks them, boils them until cooked, then turns them into Hrisseh (Click HERE for recipe).

Hrisseh is a hybrid between soup and stew.

It is mainly the cooked wheat cooked further with cooked chicken, peppers and nutmeg.

This one is eaten with grilled pita.

Kafta is baked meat that is then layered with potato slices and baked further in tomato sauce.

Mom's version is stove-cooked, with potato chunks on top and cooked slowly in tomato sauce.

Served as a stew with rice and pita bread (triple carbs).

And finally, my plate after lunch and some food play; here lining up pistachio shells...