Monday, December 24, 2012

Lentil Soup (Vegetarian). Making Our Own Food.

When we were young, we used to make our own food, from scratch (or grains). We made Zaatar, olive  oil, and grew our own vegetables.

 The fondest memories I have are of making burgul (crushed wheat). We cleaned the grains and washed off all the pebbles and dirt, then we had our annual boiling party (think our whole extended family, our town, and passerby's from the next town): We placed the wheat in a big barrel on a big fire to boil. (How do we stir the wheat? Just borrow shovel from the construction workers and clean it.)

 It was wonderful. The smell of the fresh wheat, with brown sugar, walnuts and raisins always warmed our cold October afternoons.

  Growing up, I never realized that this was rare, but I appreciated it, because I participated in all the hard work that went into it. Making our own food was never easy, but it was a beautiful, authentic, and a tasty way of life. I do miss those days.

 (If you're wondering how boiled wheat becomes burgul: spread the boiled wheat on the roof to dry, then hand- pick all the pebbles, then it all heads for crushing.)

 The soup today is incredibly simple, but very tasty. It's very traditional in the Lebanese mountain villages.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Vegetarian Grape Leaves. Mist.

I walked to the office this morning. There was this soft cold breeze and the road was misty, just before sunrise. It reminded me of my two favorite novels, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Somehow it was always misty and rainy in these two novels, and I loved that. The serenity of today's early hours was captivating, and I just strolled slowly.

In Lebanon, I used to wake up at dawn, wrap myself with a blanket, and go out to watch the sunrise behind our beautiful mountains. I sat there, before the world awakes, observing the mist crawling up the valley, and waiting for the warm rays of light. Every sunrise was different, yet each one was tranquil, magnificent and divine. 

 As I walked into the fog this morning, the quiet blurred town seemed angelically beautiful, and one thought crossed my mind. When our days become so crowded and overwhelming, and when our feelings become so confused and bewildered, sometimes, all we need is to slow down, and enjoy the peace and calm of a new cold misty morning.

 I've been meaning to make vegetarian grape leaves. My mother always cooks grape leaves, but until now, she still doesn't know how much filling she should prepare for how much grape leaves. Unfortunately, me neither! But I have a rough estimate. If you end up with extra grape leaves, just put them at the bottom of the pot, and if you end up with extra filling, just cook it on the side. It's good!

Recipe: Vegetarian Grape Leaves (Photos arrived!)
  • 1 jar (16 oz, 465 gr) brined grape leaves.
  • 1 cup rice.
  • 1/2 cup parsley.
  • 3/4 cup tomatoes, finely sliced.
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely sliced.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 medium potatoes, sliced in thin disks.
  • 4 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil.
  • Juice from 1 lemon.