“Risotto”, of course, means it’s made with rice. But “charred wheat stew” doesn’t sound as appetizing as it actually is. So with the creative culinary expression invokable by quotation marks, I’ll allying this recipe with it’s Italian cousin, risotto, because it’s made the exact same way. And for those who don’t have freekeh, and don’t want to scope it out, can make it the traditional way with rice.
Results tagged Lebanese from David Lebovitz
The Lebanese are real “snackers”, a point brought home by Mazen Hajjar, the owner of 961, Lebanon’s first (and only) craft brewery that told me if I went into someone’s home in Lebanon and they offered a drink – but no bowl of nuts or seeds, “You should go…just get up and leave immediately.”
Fortunately I never had to, because true to his word, each and every place in Lebanon where I was offered a drink, a generous bowl of bzoorat – some tasty combination of peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, etc. – were offered. And I always seemed to have my hand in a dish of them.
So it’s no surprise I went nuts, so to speak, at Al Rifai, considered one of the best nut roasters in Beirut. When I walked in, I was immediately drawn to the glowing glass and stainless-steel bins, radiating with the heat coming off the piles of freshly roasted nuts.
I picked up a few bags to bring home and it’s fun to choose your own from the dozens of nuts and seeds they offer. Some are plain, other spiced or glazed. And it’s fun to mix ‘em up. Showing true Lebanese hospitality, as I selected each one, the woman at the counter plunked down a little bowl of them for me to snack on while weighing and filling my bags. Good thing they didn’t weigh me on the way out, because I’m pretty sure I ate as much as I bought.
And now, I’m officially just as hooked as the Lebanese are. So it was a good thing Al Rifai has a large kiosk at the airport where I stocked up on even more bzoorat, along with all the locals, who also wanted to be as certain as I that we would have plenty of nuts and seeds while outside of the country. (Either that, or they were also looking for a way to pass their time when their plane got delayed for nine hours, too – oof.)
Much of what gets called Tabbouleh bears little resemblance to what Lebanese Tabbouleh is. When I moved to France and began eating in traditional Lebanese restaurants, I was served bowls heaped with fresh herbs, a few tomato chunks, and very, very few bits of bulgur (cracked wheat.) Unlike what is served as Tabbouleh in many places – which is often a bowl heaped with bulgur with a few tomatoes and bits of parsley and mint flecks in it – the cracked wheat is meant to be more of a garnish, and I’ve come to love traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh, which is a green, herbal salad with a touch of spices.
Anissa Helou is a highly acclaimed cookbook author and culinary guide, who I was fortunate to visit the market in Sharjah with, and I asked her to share her recipe for Tabbouleh in this guest post by her. Literally, right after I tossed in the dressing, I could not stop eating it. You will flip out when you try this. -David
by Anissa Helou
It’s not summer yet but I have just bought my first good tomatoes, a variety called Marmonde, large and ridged with a green tinge running through the top which faded within a couple of days. The texture of this variety is firm without being hard, and they don’t go mushy as they ripen making them ideal for Tabbouleh, where you need firm but ripe tomatoes.
Tabbouleh has now gone truly global but before the world discovered and adopted it, it was one of very few dishes that the Lebanese could claim as their own – there has been a tussle for the last few years between Israel and Lebanon as to who owns tabbouleh!