If you have room on your bookshelf for only one Lebanese cookbook, this is a strong contender. Aiming to be the definitive guide to Lebanese cooking, The Lebanese Kitchen includes hundreds of fresh, flavorful recipes from across the Middle Eastern country. Throughout, you'll find hallmarks of Lebanese cuisine like fresh produce and herbs, savory spices, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and seeds, pomegranate, orange, and rose.
• Who wrote it: Salma Hage
• Who published it: Phaidon Press
• Number of recipes: Over 500, including basic recipes, mezze and salads, soups, fish, meat, vegetables, breads and pastries, desserts, drinks, pickles and jams, and recipes from guest chefs
• Recipes for right now: Roasted Pumpkin and Chickpeas with Tahini Dressing; Butternut Squash Soup with Chili and Almonds; Sweet Potato Fish Cakes with Za'ater Crumb; Lebanese Chicken and Pomegranate; Spiced Rice Pudding; Nonalcoholic Pomegranate Wine; Quince Preserve
• Other highlights: Author Salma Hage is a Lebanese housewife who learned to cook from her mother, grandmother, and in laws, and these recipes are geared towards home cooking, seasonal ingredients, and food to share with family and friends. In addition to the standard dishes you might find at most Lebanese restaurants, there are interesting variations and seasonal twists, such as eight varieties of hummus, including one with pumpkin and another with beet. As a vegetarian, I was impressed by the number and quality of meat-free dishes, from mezze to soups, vegetable dishes, and preserved foods. On the meat side, the emphasis is on lamb and seafood.
The Lebanese Kitchen is remarkably accessible. Even if you're new to this cuisine, you should find the recipes simple to follow, with helpful notes on preparation and cooking time. Throughout the book, beautiful photographs show finished dishes, ingredients, and glimpses of life in Lebanon.
• Who would enjoy this book? Vegetarians and omnivores alike, and anyone who loves Lebanese food or wants to learn more about it.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage
(Images: Emily Ho)