8 November 2006

Fattoush, Baba Ganouj and Lebanese food

What to cook?
I love cooking. But thinking of what to make each day is quite a chore. I generally get out some vegetables from the fridge and make them into anything that comes to my mind. It's like following my instincts and the ingredients are always throw as you go. That was the main reason for me to start blogging and maintaining a record of recipes which otherwise I would never be able to recreate. Unable to recreate a recipe especially if it turned out wonderfully good the first time is a frustration that I'd experienced several times in the past. But not any longer!

It's understandable that a vegetarian like me wouldn't be able to replicate much of world cuisine in her kitchen, given that meats are a substantial part of many an ethnicity. This led me to a search of vegetarian recipes from around the world. My first stop being Lebanon. With a broadband connection and a laptop, you don't need a visa or tickets to do this thing called arm chair travelling. And what better way than cooking up a meal from there to complete the experience?

Lebanese food

Lebanese food quite resembles a healthy Mediterranean cuisine. Fresh vegetables, fruits, olive oil, garlic and white meats form the base of this cuisine. Ingredients unique to this ethnicity are Tahini (sesame seed paste) and pomegranate seeds. The latter is probably related to the fact that Pomegranates were first found and grown in the Persian regions.

The meal starts with a mezze - which includes hot and cold starters. A typical mezze would include Baba Gannouj (Roasted eggplant with sesame paste), Hummus, Falafel, Shanklish (Goat cheese served with salad) and Kibbenayeh (Ground lamb's meat served with cracked wheat).

Main course is generally meat based so that is quite beyond the scope of my experiements :) Desserts like baklava are ofcourse extremely popular and well-loved by most of us. There is another popular dessert called Mahallabiye that is a kind of milk pudding made with almonds and pine nuts. Sweets are generally had with strong sweet cardamom flavoured coffee!

My love at first bite with Lebanese food started in Basha which was a Mediterranean eatery in Rochester. Sadly, its no longer open now. The Mezze, a Basha rice full of raisins and other exotic flavours, their lentil soup was so good that any time we had to go out for dinner, I didn't have to think twice. It was in London that I had the Fattoush for want of something vegetarian and I wasn't at all sad for choosing it. If yoy happen to be in central London, this is one of the VFM places serving fresh salads, falafel, pita breads and loads of other stuff.

Since I make Baba Gannouj pretty often, I thought I'd make Fattoush and a variation of the roasted eggplant dip.


1 large onion - cut vertically into a cross and remove each layer out from the 4 pieces
3 medium sized tomatoes - large bite sized pieces
2 medium cucumbers - peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium capsicums - deseeded and cut into pieces
1 pear - peeled and cut into chunks
4-5 slices of bread - toasted till very crisp and broken into big pieces
I also added some segments of an orange like pinkish-fruit, the name of which I can't recollect now.

Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Paprika to taste

Bring all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. Mix with your hands with gentle pressure so as to release juices from cucumbers and tomatoes. Refrigerate for an hour or so.

The bread will soak up the juices from the vegetables, fruits as well as the spices and the bits of soggy bread will be the best part of the salad. However you can use the crispy bread pieces just before serving if you want to add a crunch to the salad.

Serve this salad along with chips / pita bread and some hummus & Baba Gannouj for a light weekday dinner. A glass of wine wont be a bad idea.

This time I made Baba Gannouj with the added flavour of fresh coriander. To accompany this, I rolled out a few chapatis with the leftover atta, cooked them on the tava till done on both sides. I then cut the chapatis into 8 pieces each, coated them with some olive oil and herbs. This went into a 250 C oven for 10 minutes to get crispy almost fat free chips.

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Jaya said...

Great info on Lebanese food Nandita,I kind of liked Fattoush ,I am going to try it soon..I agree with you we dont find Tahini in India ,its only here in US its so popular...
BTW ,I am definetely in for the wonderful WBB event with anew theme of baking ,I have posted the recipe also ..all the best for that event ...

Vani said...

Good info on Lebanese food, Nandita! I love Babaganoush though I've never tried it at home. The salad looks really good. Paprika in the dressing must give it a nice kick!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nandita...
u have got very well presented blog here...

Chandrika said...

Good info and great recipe, Nandita! I am trying my hand at Arab food and it's amazing how common ingredients mingle in different ways to create mouth watering dishes.

Praveena said...

Nandita, they say great minds think alike! Did you see my post about Hummus? Not as informative as you but I like to to try my hand at Lebanese food as well. I like your idea with the chapatis. I usually do this with the leftover pita bread to make pita chips.

Anonymous said...

one of my collegues is from israel and she taught us to make amazing salads!!!Arab food is yummy with or without meat. ur note about keeping a record on what u cook, is exactly th ereason i started blogging.

Anita said...

That frustration still haunts me,despite the blog. I cook something and then, a couple of days later, cannot recall the exact measurements!

That salad looks absolutely yummylicious. It really is amazing (or, maybe not) how we share so many of our main ingredients with the Middle-east. Which makes these dishes all the more accessible.

I too do the roti-chips since Pepito makes such a bloody hole in the pocket!

(Was wondering where you had disappeared to.)

Meeta said...

After living in the Middlie East for most of my life I love the Arabic cuisine. It's one of the things I look forward most to when I visit my parents. A lovely post Nandita.

Krithika said...

Nice post Nandita ! Love this cuisine. I am at present reading a book on Armenian, Persian and Lebanese cooking. It is so good. Each and every vegetarian recipe is a must-try. Salad looks wonderful!

Nandita said...

Hey thanks for your comments on one of my favourite foods!
Disappeared no-where, submerged under a truckload of work and chasing deadlines...i had done most of this write up earlier,just had to post it - which i did yesterday
Next 3-4 days are gonna be BAD!

Mantu - got ur mail, shall check your post soon.

Vani- Baba Ganouj is very easy, first step is same as bharta, roasting the brinjal- you'll find a simple recipe as a link in this post itself

Supriya- welcome to my blog!

Praveena - yes, i'd seen the hummus on your blog, i love all kinds of hummus!

Nabeela said...

Nandita, the meal looks lovely. Baba ghanouj is enjoyed by most of the countries in middle east. Everytime we have a party at my local masjid, a lot of middle-easterns bring some of the BEST baba ganoujs and hummus I've had. It's wonderful to be among so many different cuisines :)

Sandeepa said...

hi nandita,
the fattoush lokks so nice, it gives an effect of coolness, maybe because of the cucumbers
very good info on lebanese food too...thanks

Anonymous said...

Saffron Trail, I love Lebanese food as well.... So nice! :) BTW, love your blog!

Anonymous said...

hi Nandita,
Great blog. love reading it and I read it regularly.
keep it up !

Ivonne said...


You are clearly such a creative and wonderful cook to be able to come up with such inspiring ideas in the kitchen!

Have you ever seen the cookbook A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen? A friend bought it for me for my birthday. While I am not a vegetarian, it is wonderfully inspiring!

Malini said...

"I also added some segments of an orange like pinkish-fruit, the name of which I can't recollect now."-Was it by any chance Grapefruit that you added?

rooma said...

hey..... nice one nandita..... never tried making lebanese food..... will surely give this one a try..... thanks :)

Faffer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manisha said...

Whoa! This is a great take on fattoush! Which is supposed to mean "moistened bread" according to Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir. I love that the juices from the veggies and fruits become the 'base' for the dressing!

Riana said...

Fattoush is my absolute favorite salad! I love it!!

lazigourmet said...

Hey Nandita,
What an awesome blog. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

orange like pinkish fruit - like malini said - grapefruit - also known as pommello

nice blog! lovely looking salads.

- d

Anonymous said...

hey nandita,
Should say that U R doing a great cool job...... Just wanted to give U a big hand on being so creative....:)
Good job gal....
Keep it going

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, Basha Mediterranean Eatery in Rochester, NY (on S. Clinton) has reopened as Sahara Mediterranean Eatery, with basically the same menu. Rochesterians, I suggest you try out Sahara's fatoush salad!

Culture Vulture said...

There is a brilliant Lebanese restaurant in Manchester, UK.
Read our review here.

Anonymous said...

Your Middle East recipes are just really good-looking : can we add them on http://www.sookandcook.com ?

Carol said...

nice Lebanese food but for the Fattouche u can't put ruits in it it won't be fattouche. I am Lebanese and we put in it vegetables and dried or fried bread...

kermanigbakery.com said...

The menu has everything you would expect to find in traditional Lebanese cuisine, from baba ghanouj and labneh to fattoush and kebabs,Mezza is the Lebanese version of antipasto. Small snack sized portions may include; labneh, sausages, fattoush, tabouleh, hommus and baba ganoush.