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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review of Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen: Authentic Recipes for Fresh and Flavorful Mediterranean Home Cooking by Julie Ann Sageer + Recipe


The cookbook and dishes in this post were provided by Julie Ann Sageer and Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Julie Ann Sageer (a.k.a. Julie Taboulie) is known for her Emmy-nominated PBS series Cooking with Julie Taboulie. She now has a new PBS series, Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, where she introduces you to the foods of her culture, showing how easy it is to prepare these delicacies with fresh, easy-to-find ingredients. Her motto is “fresh is best” and Lebanese cooking is just that. If you are wondering how Julie became known as “Julie Taboulie”, her uncle gave her this nickname when she was a little girl and it stuck.

Along with the new series, Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen: Authentic Recipes for Fresh and Flavorful Mediterranean Home Cooking cookbook, just hit the store shelves. These authentic recipes are from her family, passed down through the generations. They include hands-on instructions, tips, tricks, and shortcuts utilizing fresh, seasonal ingredients.

I’d like to give a big thank you to Melissa’s culinary team and Julie who prepared the following dishes with the utmost care and expertise.

In the “Mezza – Small Plates” chapter, Hummus b Tahini (classic chickpea and sesame seed spread) is a simple recipe. Did you know that hummus literally means “chickpea” in Arabic? I love hummus but I can’t eat brands brought from the grocery store as they add way too much lemon. It probably helps to keep it “preserved” longer in the market. I learned to make homemade hummus and it is very simple. Julie’s recipe is very simple and tastes awesome.

You can make different combinations that can be made into her “I Heart Heavenly Hummus Bar”.

Simply Smooth Style with EVOO, little freshly squeezed lemon juice, and sprinkle of sea salt

Feeling Fresh Herb & Spring Onion with finely chopped parsley, mint leaves, spring onions, and chives

Some Like It Hot Hummus with cayenne pepper, Aleppo crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika

Baba Ghanouj (roasted eggplant dip) is usually served along with hummus. I also love Baba Ghanouj with a sweetness from the eggplant, nutty tahini, zingy garlic, slight citrus from lemon juice, and aromatic and tasty fresh herbs.

In the “Salata - Salads” chapter, Taboulie (finely chopped herb, tomato, and bulgur wheat salad – see recipe below) is the centerpiece for a gathering or meal in Lebanese culture. The Lebanese-style is more refreshing as it seems to be “greener” than most I have tried. Most I have tried have more bulgur in them. I love the nutty flavor that comes from the bulgur, but I also love Julie’s version where the parsley is the star of the dish.

Taboulie (finely chopped herb, tomato, and bulgur wheat salad)
Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

MAKES 6 SERVING

  • 3 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • ½ cup #1 fine bulgur wheat (see page 279), or 1 cup cooked, chilled quinoa
  • 4 firm, ripe tomatoes, finely diced
  • 6 scallions, ends trimmed, green and white parts thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup to 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt Hearts of romaine leaves, for serving

  1. At least 30 minutes before preparing the taboulie, thoroughly wash the parsley and mint leaves in cold water to remove dirt or debris. Shake out any excess water and drain in a colander, stem sides down. If you have a salad spinner, you can dry the herbs in that way or lay out on paper towels or a clean kitchen cloth to air dry; just make sure they are very dry before you chop them. (Taboulie tip! The cut matters! Use a sharp serrated knife for best results. Finely chop.)
  2. Place the bulgur wheat into a bowl and cover with 3 cups of cold water. Set aside to soak and soften, about 20 minutes.
  3. Combine the tomatoes, scallions, and herbs in that order in a large mixing bowl. By now, the bulgur wheat should have softened. To test, squeeze some of the grains between your fingertips, it should squish and be completely soft. Soak the bulgur longer if needed.
  4. Using your hands, squeeze out the soaked bulgur, removing as much excess water as possible. Sprinkle the bulgur on top of the fresh herbs and vegetables in the bowl. Pour in the lemon juice and olive oil, and season with the salt. Toss all the ingredients together (preferably with your hands); it should be juicy but not soggy. Taste and add salt as needed.
  5. Serve the salad as soon as possible with fresh, crisp romaine lettuce hearts for scooping

Sitto’s Malfouf Salata (my grandmother’s cabbage salad) is one of Julie’s grandmother’s go-to-autumn salads. Julie’s grandmother still lives in Lebanon and making this recipe keeps her close in the kitchen. This reminds me of a Lebanese “cole slaw” but is refreshing from the lemon juice and EVOO instead of mayonnaise. This would be great for a potluck or picnic.

In the “Shawraba – Soups and Stews” chapter, Makbouseh (summer squash stew) means “to mix things up” and it does exactly that. Utilizing fresh summer vegetables, this stew has vibrant color from green and yellow squash to red tomatoes and flavor/texture from the sweet tomatoes, creamy garbanzo beans, zingy onions and garlic, to the hearty squash.

In the “Asha – Main Meals” chapter, Mahshi Silik (stuffed swiss chard leaves) are reminiscent of dolmas or dolmades in Greek cuisine. But instead of grapes leaves, the swiss chard adds a sweetness and slight smoky flavor like taro leaves. Being brought up on Hawaiian food, I love to eat food wrapped in taro leaves, ti leaves, and banana leaves. It is probably why I love Mahshi Silik so much.

In the “Khebez, Alban & Ajban – Breads, Yogurt & Cheese” chapter, Khebez Mahamas (crispy pita chips) are a must if serving hummus or baba ghanouj. You need something to scoop up these lovely dips. This is such an easy recipe, there is no reason to buy them in the store.

In the “Helwayet & Mousharoube – Sweets & Drinks” chapter, Maamoul (patterned semolina cookies with three fillings) is a great way to end a meal. These shortbread cookies are served year-round but are made in large quantities for the Easter, Christmas, and Good Friday holidays. The different fillings are walnut, date, and pistachio. I tried the date one and it was amazing! The semolina gives it a granular texture like polenta or cornbread. The cookies are just sweet enough to keep your sweet tooth happy.

If you want to learn more about Lebanese cooking or just love Lebanese food, Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen: Authentic Recipes for Fresh and Flavorful Mediterranean Home Cooking is a must for your cookbook library.

For more information:
Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen: Authentic Recipes for Fresh and Flavorful Mediterranean Home Cooking by Julie Ann Sageer

On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce.

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