By Joumana Accad
2014 by Health Communications, Inc.
Soft Cover, 311 pages, $18.95
Taste of Beirut by Joumana Accad is much more than a collection of Lebanese recipes, albeit they alone deserve high praise. Anyone interested in food from the Middle East who wants to learn about the do’s and don’ts of cooking and eating, the “Lebanese Larder,” and some of the history and origins of Lebanese food will enjoy the book not only as a fine cookbook, but as a good read. From mezzes (appetizers) to desserts such as baklava, Accad presents easy-to-make recipes using fresh ingredients in a simple format with mouthwatering images. Recipes are organized by category: Breads, Breakfast and Brunch; Sandwiches and Soups; Mezzes: Dips, Finger Foods, Salads and Sides, Main Courses and Desserts.
A simple dish such as Dandelion Greens, (called a “salad” in the Middle East) using dandelion greens sautéed in olive oil with onions and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juicer and topped with toasted pine nuts is a sweet and delicious appetizer and is enjoyed with wedges of Arabic bread. Accad’s version of Muhammara, or Red Pepper and Walnut Dip, is a show-stopper, calling for roasted red peppers, garlic, walnut, cumin and pomeg4ranate molasses. It also is served with Arabic bread.
Throughout the book recipes are preceded by notes regarding the origin of the dish, variations on ingredients, how foods are used as home remedies and the diversity of ingredients as they pertain to Lebanon’s geography and climates.
From traditional dishes to innovative new creations, Taste of Beirut is a wonderful celebration of people, culture and cuisine!
--reviewed by Leslie Bisharat