Friday, April 04, 2008

Gotta Love the Sweet Taste of.......

While I meant the best when I decided that I would make a blog & dedicate it to cooking, my visions of grandeur have faded into pitiful little plops of attempts to eek out a blogger’s existence. Have I passed on the Holy wooden spatula to one of my offspring? I wish! On the contrary I’m usually cooking B/L/D. I’ve not been without vision or purpose in the kitchen but everything just seems so ordinary I haven’t had the energy to expound.

But then once in a blue moon you have the opportunity to do something so bizarre & wonderful that you couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to brag, (I mean, recount) the experience. And no, I did not partake in a nude mothers-only streaking happening in our blessed Chiba City. (Not that it couldn’t use a good run through the streets in the buff)

Imagine, if you will, someone handing you a whole box full of VERY authentic food from some random & exotic country. Let’s say that there was nothing about this country’s food that particularly appealed to you, merely because you don’t know a thing about the country. And ashamedly couldn’t tell off hand what countries border it. (Ask Lani).

Well, for me this country happened to be…..Mongolia. Hee hee, just kidding, but that would’ve been cool don’t you think? (All that Yak butter) It was indeed LEBANON. Now, what food do you think of when YOU think of Lebanon? Well, I thought of olives & hummus. Though to be honest I couldn’t quite remember what hummus was made of. I was a complete & total newbie to the Lebanese cooking scene. This was a chance I was not going to pass up.

Now, as much as I would like to tell my great tale of wonder. I haven’t the time or the energy. Believe me, I reeeeeaaallly don’t. (when you ask your 2 year old to “keep an eye on the baby” so you can go pee, you know you’re too busy!) So, to make the nice romantic Lebanese cooking experience short & sweet, I did what all dummies do…..Looked online & asked their resident person whose lived in Lebanon. Like, DUHHH!!

This dinner was not “Lebanon-Nippon-style” with shoyu, daikon & white rice. This was authen, gritty & dirty, from the Home-land itself, with (I kid you not) one or two pebbles in the lentils. And the best part was I only had to buy two items, yogurt & parsley!

So here’s what I made, and gosh golly with the Arabic music, candles & ambiance, it was a totally exotic experience (to me) I couldn’t quite understand the blend of tastes, but that’s what made it so fun. But let’s just say, I learned that Lebanese like to use a few main ingredients & if you have these you’re safe:

- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lemon
- Parsley, Parsley & enough parsley to make a mini forest in your kitchen
- Sesame seeds

NOTE: Green olives of course are in high order, but, oh, well, we are in Japan, not exactly Olive grove capital of the world.

Now to introduce you to my new Lebanese friends I shall show & tell:

This is Labane, it’s strained yogurt-cheese w/ olive oil, garlic & mint (shucks, didn’t have any fresh) Kids loved this the best Here is the side of a container I put it in.… oooh look, it’s a Cedar of Lebanon.
Self explanatory. Kabob, of course I was aussured that the real ones are about 3 times as long. Very basic Mutton/parsely/onion/garlic/s&p mix on a skewer. "Go on Sanjay, hit me with that skewer".Ah, now this boggles the mind. It’s called Tabbouleh. It’s basically a mix of cracked wheat/tomatoes, LOADS of parsley, lemon & olive oil. Think, Lebanese salsa. You eat it wrapped in a leaf of lettuce. I believe this is THE (or one of the) national dishes. Thank God I had Vesna to check stuff by, for authenticity. Apparently it should be about 2 parts cracked wheat & one part Parsley. Oooh, here’s the Lebanese rice. It’s great, I loved it. You just pretend that it’s actually something other than rice. Yes, it is actually “fluffy & crumbly”. You know, where they say in recipes “fluff up the rice before you serve it” and you’re laughing your head off, but REALLY, it does “FLUFF” and you can actually feel the texture of each grain as you eat it. I enjoyed that. So for that we do the fry the rice with butter & bullion before cooking it. In a rice cooker, mind you! (Come on, I had a full school day too) Flat bread! If you can believe, there was actually yeast involved. What’s up w/ that? Don’t ask me why. But it was the recipe! Thank God my two oldest girls helped me roll & fry or I never would’ve made it on time.

This is a lentil soup. Canned tomatoes, potato, lental, onion garlic, bullion & cumin. There was supposed to be spinach but I just didn’t have the heart to simmer spinach for a hr. (could you?) Actually, this was the one that I was the most impressed with. Not kidding, there was lemon in this too. I think that’s what’s made it great. Hummus. And that of course is a dip made of: ground chick peas, ground sesame, LEMON, olive oil & salt. Now, this stuff came from a can & it was pretty good, so just think how good it would be made from scratch. That is if one could find some chick peas. My Ultimate favorite I have no picture of, but it had to be the Zattar. This is a crazy herb mixture of of (get this) oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds &…..oooooh……we can’t forget…………SUMAC, apparently the sumac is what gives it the dark brown/black coloring!! And I got a whole tupperware of this stuff. You can mix it into pretty much anything, meat, soups, toppings for flat bread or a focaccia bread. You mix it with EV Olive oil for a dip, a shiny, thick black goopy lovely mess. The taste was, savory & slightly sour, like pretty much everything I’d tasted of Lebanon, exotic & confusing to the innocent taste buds. But what fun! I lathered myself in it & dove in.

So…’s the full plate!! I was surprised at the kids adventuresomeness (is that a word?) most of them tried it all, but as always the favorites were the breads! All in all the consumption part was like listening to a new album, everything sounds good, fresh & crisp but you can’t recognize anything because you’re just busy taking it all in. I need to listen to it a few more times before I know what I think! But who knows maybe God will drop a few boxes of Lebanese food from the sky!

Cheerio & happy hunting.


Kari said...

Ooh, that looks delicious! How I miss Lebanese food.
Love ya & hope to see you soon!

Anonymous said...

We, the HCS, have heaps of chickpeas!!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. To be honest it changed my life and the way I cook, there I said it. Particularly the celery soup post. I use the processor or blender all the time now. And the other day I made shepherds pie too. I loved your crust very genius, I would have put in less basil but the texture was a winner for sure. Junior

babylove said...

Kari: Gosh, I feel like I'm so out of the loop. When did you eat Lebanese? ha!

Anon: Please give me some chickpeas? What do you do with them out there? Hummus wrestling? :)

Jr: Wowwiee! THat's really happy making. Glad to know that you got a few tips. It's great to think a guy invests time & energy making good food. What our homes all need a little more of.
Your probobly right about the basil, I tend to overdo that! ha!

Anonymous said...

I made the scones yesterday they were a winner as well. I quadrilled your recipe and they were all gone. Served it with beef stew great combination. Keep posting. Junior.