Classic Lebanese Cuisine (Three Forks, 2009)
Lebanese cuisine includes a wide
selection of lamb, chicken and fish
dishes, such as this fire-roasted wheat
with lamb from Kamal Al-Faqih.
Al-Faqih grew up in Washington, D.C.,
where his father was employed at the
Embassy of Lebanon. The youngest of four
boys, he began cooking with his mother and
aunts when he was about 9 years old. His
cookbook includes 170 traditional recipes,
and he is working on a second book.
Authentic dishes created from time-honored recipes are on the menu at
Lebanese restaurants around the country.
Most of the restaurants are family
businesses and, like Nicola’s Restaurant
in Atlanta, welcome generation after
generation of regular customers.
yogurt and sautéed pine nuts, garnished with
“People have been coming here for 26
years to eat, dance and celebrate special
occasions,” says owner Nicola Ayoub. “They
bring their children, then their grandchildren,
and now even their great grandchildren.”
The dish is on the menu at the 11 units of
Arlington, Va.-based Lebanese Taverna,
a group of restaurants and cafes with
locations in the greater Washington, D.C.,
area. Lebanese Taverna was founded in
1979 by Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm, who
are now retired. Their five children run the
group’s restaurants, cafes and market.
Small bites, big flavor
Lebanon’s bountiful harvest is used to
create a wide variety of mezza, those small
plates that are as much a social encounter
as a dining experience and include unusual
salads, main-dish desserts, the Lebanese
take on baklava and copious amounts of fruit.
What keeps diners coming back to
Lebanese restaurants? Their owners all
agree: Lebanese cooking is healthy and
fresh, and it’s meant for sharing. The latter
attribute isn’t a twist to meet contemporary
expectations but a centuries-old tradition.
Another meat-free specialty in Lebanese
cuisine is raisin couscous with a stew of
carrots, onion, yellow squash, zucchini and
tomatoes, which is featured in Classic
Lebanese Cuisine (Three Forks, 2009), by
Kamal Al-Faqih. A native of Lebanon,
Chefs wanting to add a taste of Lebanon
to their non-Lebanese menus should
look to mezza. These usually bite-sized
appetizers offer an abundance of tastes
and textures perfect for starting a meal
or passing as hors d’oeuvres. “I’ve catered
parties where the entire menu was an
elaborate buffet of mezza,” says Al-Faqih.
On the Lebanese menu
This country with one foot in the
Mediterranean and the other in the Middle
East has an abundance of fresh fruits and
vegetables, grains and other products from
sea and land. Olive oil is used in lieu of butter,
and the harvest lends itself to vegetarian
dishes, such as fatteh bel bathenjan, an
eggplant /chickpea dish topped with toasted
Lebanese bread and smothered with warm
“Mezza are the staples of Lebanese
cooking and usually found on every table,”
says Lebanese Taverna’s Grace Abi-Najm.
“They’re meant to be shared, just as main
courses are often shared.”
To make that sharing a true experience,
Lebanese Taverna offers a selection of
Mezza platters are available at Nicola’s, also,
where the Dancer’s Plate includes nearly all
A repertoire of vegetarian dishes in
Lebanese cuisine includes this moghrabieh,
also known as Lebanese couscous.