Results tagged Middle East from David Lebovitz

Al Bohsali: Middle Eastern Pastries

arab pastries

It’s too bad that so many people are only familiar with Middle Eastern pastries that aren’t so well made. If you sample them far from where they originate, often they’re made with old or stale nuts, they’ve sat around too long in plastic packages, or the cheeses aren’t exactly fresh. While it’s true that some of them can be a bit sticky-sweet for Western tastes, but when they’re made correctly, they’re just as lovely to look at as they are to eat.

semolina pastry

At Al Bohsali in Beirut, all the pastries are made on the premises. As you get ready to sip your coffee, you can gaze at all the lovely pastries resting in a shiny glaze, presented in wide stainless-steel trays on the counter. Then make yourself a little plate to try a few, which I was happy to do.

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Saj, Flatbreads and Lebanese Pastries

thin lebanese bread

Since a number of people have been asking, whenever I ask the bakers who are making flatbreads in Lebanon, specifically what their formula is for they breads they are rolling out (or tossing), I’ll get the same, vague response; “Flour and water..oh, and a little olive oil.” And that’s it, as they continue with their busywork.

Heloui stretching lebanese bread

While I suspect if I pressed them further, they might admit “Okay, and some yeast or leavening, and perhaps a pinch of salt.” But more than any recipe or baker’s formula, the most important ingredient that goes in to all the marvelous flatbreads I’m discovering in Lebanon: technique.

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Lebanese Breakfast

za'atar croissant

Whenever I’m at home, all I want for breakfast is coffee, orange juice, and some bread and butter – and I’m good.

Khobz fresh white cheese with olive oil

But going to the Middle East, when they start bringing out all the fresh salads, candied fruits and jams (such as eggplant and another made from unripe walnuts, just below) and all sorts of beautiful fresh cheeses and pickles, I am helpless to resist. Well, once I’ve had at least one very strong cup of coffee in me.

candied eggplant and walnuts

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Eggplant Jam

eggplant jam recipe blog

The words “eggplant” and “jam” together might throw you, but if you stop to consider that eggplant – like tomatoes and squash – are botanically fruits, the idea doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. (Although there are plenty of fruits I wouldn’t advise flavoring with garlic.)

I’ve been on a kick, exploring and enjoying flavors of the Middle East lately. And to take my mind of my rapidly escalating olive oil budget, I was leafing through one of my favorite books, From Tapas to Meze by Joanne Weir, and came across this jam. I’m a big fan of eggplants, which is a good thing since they frequently show up in foods of the Middle East, as well as in dishes of their neighbors in North Africa. And even though I could happily eat my way through all of those countries, luckily in Paris, they’re abundantly available here as well.

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