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The Seven Spices of Lebanon

July 26,2016 - Radio Kitchen - The Seven Spices of Lebanon

A couple weeks ago we talked about the delicious cuisine of Morocco, so we thought we would sail to the other end of the Mediterranean and visit Lebanon.  While we here in Maryland are awash in fresh produce, it might pay to look at a culture that venerates vegetables and knows what to do with them.

And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has learned, there is a lot Beirut can teach Baltimore.

One of the first things you'll hear about is the Lebanese 7 Spice.  The number 7 has more to do with mystical/religious connotations that the actual number of spices used.  If you want to whip up a batch for yourself, here's a recipe.

                            

                                    The Cuisine of Lebanon

                        Chefs Amy von Lange & Jerry Pellegrino

                              7-Spices

Ingredients

  • ½ cup ground black pepper
  • ½ cup ground cumin
  • ½ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup ground coriander
  • ¼ cup ground cloves
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Combine all of the spices in a jar with an airtight lid. Store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.

Two of the most famous mid-eastern side dishes get a fresh treatment in Lebanon.  Here are recipes for Lebanese style hommous and tabboulelh.

Hommous

Ingredients

  • 16oz. fresh chickpeas
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup thick Greek-style or drained yogurt
  • Salt to taste

  1. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop in the garlic.
  2. When the garlic is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the chickpeas, salt and cumin, and turn on the machine for about 30 seconds. Stop the machine, scrape down the sides, and start the machine again.
  4. With the machine running, add the lemon juice, olive oil and yogurt, and blend until smooth.
  5. Taste and adjust salt. Thin out as desired with more yogurt if necessary.
  6. Transfer to a wide bowl, and garnish with extra virgin olive oil and paprika if desired.
  7. Serve with warm pita bread.

Tabbouleh

Ingredients

  • ½ cup fine bulgur
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup boiling-hot water
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (from 3 bunches)
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 medium tomatoes cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • ½ seedless cucumber, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  1. Place the bulgur in a bowl, pour in the hot water and cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Allow to sit for 30 minutes or until the bulgur is soft and cooked through.
  3. Using a fork, fluff the bulgur while slowly pouring in the olive oil.
  4. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Lebanese cuisine is very vegetable oriented.  Here is a very tasty dish that uses eggplant as its central ingredient, with a stuffing that goes along with it.

                                                Sheikh El-Mehsheh

Ingredients

  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 lb ground beef or lamb
  • 2 teaspoons of 7-spices
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 large yellow chopped onion cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 3 large eggplant
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry mint

  1. Slice the eggplant lengthwise in 1 inch strips, brush with olive oil, place in a baking dish and roast for 30 minutes in a 350°F oven or until soft. Set aside to cool.
  2. While the eggplant are roasting, melt the butter in a sauté pan set over medium high heat until just foaming.
  3. Add the onion and cook until translucent.
  4. Add the 7-spices and cook for an additional minute.
  5. Add the beef and cook until brown and done through.
  6. Mix in the pine nuts and season with salt.
  7. Remove the eggplant from the baking dish.
  8. Using the same baking dish, build stacks of slices of eggplant layered with the beef mixture three eggplant slices high. Cover each stack with tomato sauce and sprinkle with the dried mint.
  9. Return to the 350°F oven and bake until warmed through, about 15 minutes. Serve while warm over rice.
     

                                                Lahmebaajeen

Ingredients for the filling

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 large red onion finely chopped
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup of pine nuts
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Pomegranate Molasses
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup of finely chopped Parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of 7-spices

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.