August 25, 2013

From Beirut to Rome: Good Food Makes A World of Difference.

We just returned from an incredible vacation to the Middle East and Europe.  At culinary capitals like Beirut and Rome, food is a natural vehicle for good times, creating the great memories we bring back home and cherish forever.

Take breakfast at my parents' house near Beirut, for example.  My mother makes her own thyme pies, and my father organically grows the most delicious tomatoes I have ever tasted in my life.  Put the two together, and this combination is flavor perfection.  I couldn't think of a better meal to kick-start my day.  I also sneaked back a few pies in my suitcase on the way home.  I'm happy to share my recipe for these thyme pies - called Man'ousheh in Lebanese.  Simply send me an email!

A typical Lebanese breakfast: Preserved Lamb with Eggs; Garlic Yogurt (Labneh); Hummus; Balilah, an assortment of Vegetables and Pickles, all enjoyed with Lebanese bread.

Mom's Middle-Eastern dinner feast
Lunches and dinners in Lebanon were no different.  We visited several great restaurants (as well as home kitchens), where we experienced some of the most sumptuous and elaborate meals.  Invitations would come in at random from friends and family, and for no specific reason other than "just to have a good time." This is how magic is created around the dining table, bringing people together to enjoy and celebrate life, which turns into a chance to try out new flavor combinations.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, and I invite you to try out my latest recipe below: a Lebanese-style vinaigrette, guaranteed to liven up any salad you make and become a staple in your repertoire.  Enjoy!

The salad complemented the heavier dishes perfectly

Similarly, after traveling to Italy, I am reminded that a dish as straightforward as a Roman pasta with fresh tomatoes, cooked to perfection is why simple good food always wins.

One of the many simple but great meals we enjoyed in Rome. Pictured here in the Jewish Ghetto.

When you experience meals that are made with love and the most wonderful of ingredients, life gets instantly better.  Whether to Rome or Beirut, or anywhere your journeys take you, here's to more travel, good food and happy memories around the table.

Best Wishes,


Family-made Limoncello at a lemon orchard in Sorrento, Italy
Simple pastas and risotti make the best meals. Rome, Italy
Classic Lebanese Salad Dressing

Use this dressing (or vinaigrette) to add some zing to any of your favorite salad ingredients!

Mom's salad dressed with the classic Lebanese vinaigrette
Makes 1 Cup

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice - never from a bottle
1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt - kosher salt is great for dressings
ground black pepper to taste
Optional: a pinch of Sumac spice

Add all ingredients to a bowl.  Mix just before serving.  Dressing some salads (such as those containing warm roasted vegetables) ahead of serving is perfectly fine.  Use your own judgement in this case.