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White semi-hard cheese that melts well when heated. Used most often for sweet pastries, like kanafeh (soak in water to take out the salt). Can be substituted by a mix of light hard cheese and mozzarella
Amar el din
Apricots are not only eaten... but are drunk too. Amar el din is the dried apricot paste that is soaked in water and boiled for a short while to obtain a silky thick liquid, of a beautiful orange color. This drink is then scented with orange blossom water and rose water, and served fresh. The "amar el din" is a "must" of "iftar", the meal which marks the end of a fasting day during Ramadan. This velvety, soft and sweet drink is perfect on an empty stomach.
It is said that the best “Yansoun” comes from the gardens of Ghouta, near Damascus. The small aniseed not only are a fragrance to our cuisine, but also to our drink: the “Arak.” A cuisine as tasteful as the Lebanese cuisine should only be accompanied by the best refreshing Arak : characterized by both its freshness and its anise taste. In addition, the anise is a kitchen ingredient, used to make delicious cookies, or to accompany dishes like “snaynyieh”, boiled wheat sweetened with sugar and served with orange blossom water, pine nuts, pistachios... It is also a nice herbal tea for winter's cold days.
Gilded and fleshy, apricots are the fruit of the Bekaa's plains, especially Baalbek, where the Ajami variety (Persian), mostly used in jams, is cultivated. The apricot is the first hot days' fruit of the year: sweet, silky and fleshy. For the pleasure to last further, the apricots not only are preserved in compote, but also transformed into a most delicious jam. The best apricot jam is one left to cook for days, under the Bekaa's sun ... without any fire. Apricots are also dried, or pressed in blocks of apricot pulp called " amar el din ", which can be diluted in water to obtain a soft and smooth drink: a must for Ramadan's Iftar (first drink after a fasting day)
is one of the Lebanese culinary symbols ... like tabbouleh and kibbeh. Anyway it is the best drink to accompany both. Zahleh, in the Bekaa valley is known for the production ... and consumption of arak, to drink mainly with mezze. Arak is called there “lioness’s milk” or Virgin Mary tears. Arak is a grape alcohol, scented with aniseseed. It is served diluted in water, in a proportion of a third arack to two thirds of water, and served chilled, with a lot of ice. The transparent arak turns to a milky white once diluted in water. The fresh taste of aniseed, and cold temperature of arak, make it the perfect drink to go with sour and spicy tastes of a mezze. Arak is not only a drink, but a way, a ritual, a style of eating and drinking for hours and hours.
" glory to the rice, and burghul hung itself " said the old proverb… which means that the burghul, this original old ingredient, lost its importance facing the imported rice. burghul or bread, are the necessary cereals of every meal. The burghul is prepared from wheat, washed, cleaned and steamed, before being dried, then ground in different thickness,: big, to cook like rice, fine, for the tabbouleh, or very fine, for preparations like kibbeh.
has small seeds, similar to the aniseseed, and is mainly used for meghli.
are used mainly to perfume coffee, and sometimes as a spice for food, like chicken shawarma.
vermicelli is similar to the angel’s hair pasta – but is not used like a pasta. A small quantity is browned in ghee or butter, and added to rice, that will cook together. The will help the rice not to be sticky, and will be beautiful blond strokes, decorating the white rice.
Chickpeas / Hummus
hummus is the name of the chickpea itself (hummus), and of the chickpea paste (hummus or hummus bi tahini). This latter is prepared by mixing cooked and crushed chickpeas with tahini, lemon … It is said that hummus (chick pea paste or puree) is the test of excellence of a restaurant! one knows if a restaurant is good or not while judging its hummus... so easy to prepare but delicate to succeed. A dish of the world nowadays, appreciated as much for its taste as for its food values. First it is necessary to specify that the " hummus " is not a sauce, or a "dip", but a dish, or rather one of the dishes of "mezze", I would say even the inevitable part of a "mezze". The hummus is a specialty of the Fouwel (merchant or maker of “foul m’damass”) and until our days, fouwels succeeds a silken hummus as one can never make at home !
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