I grew up learning about my Lebanese culture through a fresh and diverse palate of flavors. It was the lemons, olive oil, garlic and rich spices that allowed me to travel along the Mediterranean coastline, into the mountains and through the crowded streets of Beirut. It was the passion in which my father prepared tabouli and the care that my mother took when stuffing grape leaves helped me understand just how beautiful and important our culture was. We cooked and ate to visit my family and we still do. We can’t hop on a plane every time we long for family but we can blend together a batch of hummus and sip turkish coffee to get that much closer. These series of photographs are an attempt for me to do just that, to visit my Aunts, Uncles and cousins by cooking and eating with them even though we are oceans apart.
BLOOD ORANGE OLIVE OIL CAKE
Mighli is a rice flour spiced pudding that is traditionally made when a baby is born. The newborn’s family cooks up a big batch of the pudding spiced with anise seed, cinnamon, ground caraway and ground ginger. When guests come over to visit the baby a heaping bowl is served topped with pine nuts, raisins, shredded coconut and walnuts. It’s such an intoxicatingly rich and unique flavor that you’ll find yourself craving it for days.
TURKISH COFFEE & TREATS
Gathering for a cup of turkish coffee is not just about getting a caffeine fix. There’a quite a ritual around the process. It starts by boiling a small pot of water mixed with a very finely ground coffee three times on the stove, serving the pot of rich coffee on a trey with tiny cups and something sweet to nibble on. There will be lots of loud and dramatic sipping, refills and finally everyone turns their cups upside down so the grinds will drip down and dry out and a fortune can be read. That is most defiantly the best part!
Z’ATAR BREAD / MANA’EESH
One of my fondest memories of my first visit to Lebanon circles around this special treat. My cousin Elias and I walked down the hill to the local baker with our family bag of z’atar spices. The baker took the spice, sprinkled it over several loafs of raw pita bread and baked it in the brick oven, handing over the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.