Fatouche, tabbouleh, katayef… Lebanese cuisine, the star of the summer

Friendly, giving pride of place to plants, Lebanese cuisine is the star of the moment. Five good reasons to put it on the menu.

A shared kitchen

This summer, it’s mezze! This multitude of small plates typical of Lebanese cuisine is, in fact, an excellent way to receive without having to set the table in a formal way. We thus find ourselves around a traditional tabbouleh – this salad combining chopped parsley, crushed wheat, tomatoes, onions -, a dish filled with labné, goat’s cheese and sheep’s cheese, which can be garnished with mint, olive oil, but also vine leaves, baba ganoush, aubergine caviar with sesame cream and yogurt, and of course hummus. We have all these wonders on the table, pita bread and everyone helps themselves. An oriental tapas spirit for an aperitif dinner that we prepare at home thanks to many beautiful recipe and initiation books such as Lebanon, a story of family cooking, love and sharing (Hachette Pratique Editions, €29.95) by Tara Khattar, a young Lebanese chef who pays tribute in these pages to the culinary heritage passed on to her by her grandmother. As for those who do not want to get their hands dirty, they can fall back on the many excellent caterers and restaurants offering take-out sales like Liza in Paris, a true ambassador of this gastronomy. since 2005.

Excellent surprises to discover

Impossible to be jaded when it comes to Lebanese cuisine. Admittedly, there are great classics, falafels, hummus, kefta… But that’s not all. Lebanese chefs like Alan Geaam have made it their mission to discover all the facets of their gastronomy and even to reinterpret it. Thus, in his eponymous restaurant, crowned with a star in the Michelin Guide, Alan Geaam combines references to French classics and Lebanese products. This gives, for example, an absolutely surprising and irresistible “Poulette de Bresse, supreme marinated in Lebanese spices and thigh, butternut… His second establishment, Qasti, offers him the opportunity to discover sometimes unknown specialties such as Makanek – small Lebanese – with pomegranate molasses or Soujouk, a kind of beef sausage. In short, enough to feed his curiosity for a long time to come.

The unmissable hummus reflects the importance given to plants in Lebanese cuisine. Getty Images

The beautiful share of plants

Salads highlighting raw vegetables such as fatouchewhich traditionally combines purslane, green salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions sublimated by sumac, a spice with tangy notes; warak enab which are known as vine leaves and which are stuffed with rice; hummus, this essential chickpea purée or even falafel, crispy chickpea balls… Lebanese cuisine offers a wide panorama of vegetarian dishes that combine vegetables, cereals, herbs, spices… And one of which makes a whole meal.

Ingredients that twist everyday dishes

The zaatar has made a remarkable entrance in the hexagonal plates for a few years. This mixture – often a marriage of thyme, hyssop, savory, wild thyme, marjoram, oregano, pennyroyal – typical of Levantine cuisine immediately puts a touch of sunshine in the dishes. In Lebanon, it is eaten in particular on a bread soaked in olive oil. Freekeh, this oriental variety of green wheat, continues to gain more and more followers who see it as an alternative to quinoa or rice. It can be cooked in a salad, like a risotto, or simmered with meat or poultry. Finally, a curiosity, pomegranate molasses, deserves to be included in the clan of must-haves in the cupboard. Of a beautiful red color, tangy and fruity, it allows to put a touch of sweetness in salad dressings but also to lacquer meats. You can even eat it on toast!

Pistachios, ingredients of Lebanese pastry. Getty Images

Ideal for lovers of sweets

Even if the irresistible baklava is a reference in Lebanese pastry, and more broadly in the Middle East, you have to try many other wonderfully addictive sweet specialties. Thus, the muhallabi, this flan with orange blossom often served with chopped pistachios, is the promise of a delicious journey. You should also try the mafrouké, a semolina and pistachio cake, the katayef, a kind of pancake batter topped with milk cream, pistachios and walnuts, or even the knéfé, a cheese-based recipe, hair d angel, pistachio and syrup. Those who are lucky enough to pass in front of a Lebanese ice cream parlor will not hesitate to push open the door to enjoy a traditional Achta ice cream flavored with orange blossom and sprinkled with pistachios.


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