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Lebanese inspiration!

August 30, 2009

I was inspired twice this month to get back to my roots and cook some Lebanese food. I had the pleasure of being contacted by the owner of Ziyad, probably the largest importer of Mediterranean foods in the United States. He sent me a beautiful care package of goodies to cook with. I then went to my family reunion in Chicago. My aunts cooked a full spread of authentic Lebanese food. We had grape leaves, sfiha, kibbe, fatayer, stuffed cabbage, the list goes on.salmon grape leaves

I wanted to take the flavors of the Middle East “without borders”. I made grape leaves stuffed with grilled salmon, toasted pine nuts, rice and the spice mixture known as Zahtar. Zahtar is traditionally a mix of ground sesame seeds, dried thyme and or oregano and sumac. Typically it is a dried herb mixture. I wanted to bring a really bright flavor to the dish so I used fresh thyme, fresh oregano, sumac and I didn’t have sesame seeds so I used sesame oil. Zahtar is another one of those brilliant blends where the mixture is so much more than the total of the individual spices. A deep, exotic, intriguing flavor. I grilled the salmon to MR and broke it into tender morsels. I cooked white rice separately and then tossed it into the bowl. I added toasted pine nuts, sesame oil and the Zahtar blend. I boiled the grape leaves until tender and then wrapped them around the mixture.

salmon grapes leaves up closeWith my eyes closed I felt like I was experience all the flavors I love in Lebanese food but in a new way. The grilled salmon played so nicely with the earthy flavor of the thyme and oregano. The sumac brought its cleansing tangy, citrusy note and the sesame oil pulled everything together making the filling moist and rich but not heavy.  The grape leaf was visually beautiful, almost like “Lebanese sushi” and brought that slightly tart, fully vegetal flavor that I love. Enjoy!

Eat well, enjoy life, be happy.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2009 9:32 am

    lebanese sushi! yes, indeed. nice.

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      September 2, 2009 8:50 am

      thank you for reading Dawn! Jeffrey 🙂

  2. amgrumpy permalink
    August 31, 2009 6:23 am

    Jeffrey,

    I love Middle Eastern food and would love you to share some other recipes. I am looking for a recipe for a dish that consists of lamb and string beans that are cooked in a tomato base sauce. It is served in one of the Middle Eastern restaurants in my hometown and I would love to make it at home but can’t find a recipe. I do not know the name of the dish because it comes in combo plate and they call it lamb and beans. I would love to make some of the desserts that are common to this area. Do you know of any good web sites that i could go to for recipes? It would be great if you were able to do a video/show with Middle Eastern food.

  3. September 3, 2009 12:59 am

    wow..wara aresh looks different from i’ve seen it. very tastey looking!

  4. Rachel Farha permalink
    September 12, 2009 10:36 am

    Jeffrey – Love the new ideas on cooking the old family favorites. Spending a weekend in Wichita with my Grandma and heard stories of your Grandma Florine, my grandfather’s sister.

    I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading more of your delicious ideas.

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      September 13, 2009 1:09 pm

      Thank you Rachel, very cool. J 🙂

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