We put on some traditional Lebanese music and away we go into a country that we will probably never get to see in person. Mariah’s cooking and I’m sous chef, plate stylist & photographer. It is only natural that we start with mezze and finish with dessert. We’re both new to this, so we start simple and dream of a few more complex dishes at the next session.
Our first course is red pepper hummus. We can’t find tahini and red peppers in a can, which is probably a blessing in disguise, as we roast gloriously red, fresh peppers and make our own tahini. I make the tahini and the first batch is a disaster and lands up in the trash can. The second batch is better, but there are still a few seeds floating around. I think the blades in my coffee grinder might be getting blunt and I think I missed an ingredient, because I couldn’t find my original tahini recipe and winged this one. Oh well. I toss it into the blender in the hopes that it will smooth out while blending the rest of the ingredients and thankfully it works. Mariah gives me chickpea tips for a smoother hummus: “Don’t use the canned version. Soak the dry chickpeas overnight in water & meticulously peel them the following day before cooking them. This will give you the perfectly smooth hummus you desire. Make sure when you make the tahini that it is smooth and slightly runny. This consistency will help create the final creaminess.” Our final product has incredible flavor when we serve it with pita bread.
We keep our main dish simple and healthy. It is a colorful Lebanese salad that gets us ready for a more decadent orange coconut cake for dessert. The cake gets orange blossom water in it, which gives it a unique taste and interesting texture to the frosting that makes it look almost like glitter. Mariah breaks an egg like I’ve never seen before. It is so beautifully done that it almost feels Zen.
“Don’t touch that oven!” If you open an oven door too early during the baking process, the cake will fail and fall flat. Halfway through the baking I open the oven door. What?! Wait!! Where’s the cake? It is in the microwave above the oven. Well, that is easy to understand. The microwave looks exactly like the oven! Laughing. We quickly move the cake down to the “real” oven and bake it for the required time. It comes out beautifully. Mariah is most certainly a baker. We take the fruits of our labor outside to be met with a glorious day in our park-like garden where we enjoy an afternoon of tremendous and simple, yet oh so tasty, Lebanese cuisine created by our own hands.
“Next time we’re making baklava,” says Mariah.
“I love baklava, but you’re on your own. Way too complex for me. I’ll make our main dish while you create that beauty,” I declare.
Hope next time will be here soon!
Our home made tahini will be in my book, but also appears as a sample recipe under the Recipes section of this blog. For something healthy, click on Healthy Nutrition. Here you’ll find a low calorie beetroot dip inspired by a good friend, as well as by the Middle Eastern flavors we are currently exploring.