Of course, I really dislike rain most of the time, but I'm not going to say so out loud. We really need the rain.
The earliest known occupants of Lebanon were the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that lived in the region for almost a millennium. Lebanon was later occupied by the Romans, and then by the Arabs, and the result of all that indecisiveness is that today it is a place of great ethnic and religious diversity.
Fun fact: Lebanon has such unique geography that you can go skiing in the morning and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoon. Which you could theoretically do in California, too, if the Pacific Ocean wasn't so damned cold.
|Baalbek, Lebanon. Photo by Paul Saad.|
The Lebanese eat a lot of seafood, starches, whole grains and vegetables, and chicken is on the menu more often than red meat is. The Lebanese love garlic and lemon juice, which brings me to our main course:
Djej w Batata Bil Sayniyyeh (Baked Garlic Chicken and Potatoes)
(All of this week's recipes come from Mama's Lebanese Kitchen)
- 4 lbs chicken pieces
- 5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into ½ inch pieces
- 20 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
- A pinch of Lebanese 7-spice
- Vinegar (optional)
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 3 lbs green beans, rinsed and trimmed
- 3 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2/3rd cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 tsp Lebanese 7-spice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 lbs date paste (or grind pitted dates to paste in a food processor)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 lb of walnuts
- 1/4 lb coconut flakes
The first step is to soak the chicken pieces in vinegar for two minutes, though this is optional. When done, rinse in cold water and pat dry.
Now cut a few slits in each chicken piece to allow the marinade to penetrate. Mix two tbsp of the olive oil with a pinch of salt and the Lebanese 7-spice.
While the chicken is cooking, place the garlic in a food processor with ½ tsp of salt and the rest of the olive oil. Pulse for 4 to 5 minutes, then add the lemon juice and pulse for another 4 to 5 minutes.
First, melt butter over a low flame. Pour over the date paste and "knead" by hand. Divide into 28 pieces and then stuff each piece with a walnut half. Roll it into a ball and then dip in coconut flakes. Chill or serve at room temperature.
The dates fudge, mmm. It was dead-simple to make and tasted very Mediterranean, and my kids were not fans. When I say "dessert," they think I mean "cupcakes." I really have to break them of those way-too-American palettes that they have. But oh well, more for me.
Next week: Lesotho