Archive for the ‘Dips & Spreads’ category

Guacamole – A Great Dip for Grills

March 22nd, 2010 Leave a reply »

Guacamole is not a Lebanese dish, but it is one that I make to accompany Lebanese grills. As spring is just around the corner here in sunny California (and I hear on the east coast too), I have decided to showcase all of my Lebanese barbecue tips, starting with this terrific dip. Guacamole is a great accompaniment to Shish Taouk, Kafta Meshwi, Kibbeh just like Humus and Babaghanoush.Here is my famous Guacamole recipe.

Estimated time: 20min
Servings: 8 (medium-size bowl)



Ingredients: 3 ripened avocados, 2 tomatoes, ½ onion, 3 tablespoons of crème fraiche or sour cream, 1 lemon, ½ tablespoon of paprika & salt to taste. A little bit of crushed garlic - maybe 1 clove - is optional

1. If the avocados are too hard and unripe, place them in a brown bag until they become soft. Then peel & cut the avocados into small pieces. Place the avocados in a mixing bowl and mash them using a fork into a smooth purée
2. Add 3 tablespoons of crème fraiche or sour cream and mix well. You can make Guacamole with Lebne, a Lebanese cream, but the dip does not taste the same
3. Press 1 lemon and add the juice to the mixture
4. Cut 2 tomatoes and ½ onion into small dices and add to the avocado dip
5. Add ½ tablespoon of paprika as well as some salt for taste and mix well
6. Decorate with a little bit of paprika on top

The other day, I needed to make guacamole for a party but my avocados were too green and I had no time to wait until they ripened. So I used a food processor and it worked very well, except that my guacamole became a perfect purée with no chunks of avocado - which is of course the best part of a hand-made guacamole – chunks of avocado. If you use a food processor, make sure not to process the tomatoes & onion. These should be added after you have processed the avocado, the crème fraiche and lemon juice.


So, how do you usually like your guacamole dip?


Lebanese Cheese – Shanklish

January 31st, 2010 Leave a reply »

I LOVE CHEESE and have tried dozens of cheeses from around the world, but Lebanon has the spiciest cheese I have ever tasted: Shanklish. This aged & dried cheese, made of cow or sheep milk, is covered in thyme & Aleppo pepper, giving it an extremely pungent & peppery flavor.

Shanklish (also spelled shinklish, shankleesh) is best eaten with finely chopped raw vegetables and a good lug of olive oil, a terrific dip to accompany other Mezza Dishes.

Shanklish Dip

Estimated time: 10min
Servings: 6

Ingredients: 300g of Shanklish, 1 small onion, 2 tomatoes, ½ cucumber, ½ cup of Italian/flat parsley (about 1/4 bushel), ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 6 tablespoons of olive oil, salt & pepper

It is said that if you don’t have access to Shanklish, you can replace it with Feta cheese, which will give the dip a lighter taste. But in my opinion, nothing can replace Shanklish; it is truly a unique cheese and you can find it at most Middle Eastern supermarkets.


Yogurt Cucumber Dip

November 15th, 2009 Leave a reply »

Yogurt cucumber dip is a very famous dish all around the world: from India (Raita), to the Middle East (Labane bi khiyar), to Greece (Tzatziki). This dip is often eaten with grilled/baked meat & vegetables. But isn’t this dip simply yogurt and cucumbers? Well… almost…
Estimated time: 10min
Servings: 4

Ingredients: 3 medium cucumbers, 250g of yogurt, 1 teaspoon dried mint, 2 garlic cloves, salt to taste

Dice the cucumbers (or grate them into slices) and transfer them into a bowl. Add the yogurt, minced garlic, dried mint and salt. Stir to combine. Decorate with a few leaves of fresh mint.

Serving tips: this dip is best served very cold. In order for it to stay chilly & watery, drop 3 ice cubes into the dip before serving.

Yogurt Cucumber Dip

My Sugar Daddy – Babaghanouj

October 5th, 2009 Leave a reply »

Babaghanouj (in Arabic: baba = “daddy” ghanouj = “the one who spoils”, also spelled baba ghanouj, baba ghanoush, baba ghannoug) is a sibling of Hummus in the Mezza Family: they often come together. But this time, babaghanouj is most commonly served with one topping, fresh mint.
Estimated time: 30-40min
Servings: 4

Lebanese Seven Spices

Ingredients: 2 large dark-purple eggplants (the darker the color, the better), 4 to 5 tablespoons or 50g of tahini (aka. sesame seed paste), ½ lemon, 1 garlic clove, olive oil, salt, ½ teaspoon of cumin (optional)


1. Poke holes in the 2 eggplants with a fork
2. Place the eggplants on the grill, in the oven at 400F, or over a gas flame. After 15min, one side should be well cooked and the flesh very tender. Turn over the eggplants and let them grill on all sides for 10min. After 30min, if the eggplants are not soft enough, keep on heating them until the skin is easy to peel off
3. Peel the eggplants under a cold tap and discard the skin. Remove the heads and cut them in half. Allow the eggplants to cool to room temperature
4. Then slice each half into 5 long strings and remove all of the seeds you can find (many are hidden in the flesh)
5. Place the pieces of eggplant into a food processor with salt and 1 garlic clove chopped into small pieces. Whizz the mixture into a smooth purée
6. Press ½ lemon and add the juice to the mixture; add 4 tablespoons of tahini; and finally add ½ teaspoon of ground cumin (optional); process the mixture

Taste – If the mixture is too liquid, add a little bit of tahini, but be careful not to overdo the tahini; you only need a little to bring out the flavor of the eggplants. **What to look for when you taste?** Make sure you taste the lemon juice & eggplant. Charring the eggplants on a gas flame or charcoal grill gives the baghanouj a distinctive smoky flavor.

7.  Transfer the mixture into a small plate or shallow bowl and garnish with fresh mint (whole or chopped leaves)


The Finale: drizzle over olive oil and eat with Arabic/pita bread.


** Feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions about the recipe

The Secret of Hummus

September 27th, 2009 Leave a reply »

Hummus (also spelled humus, hommus, hummos, hummous) is a basic dish in Lebanese Mezza. You will most likely be served hummus as an appetizer at every local restaurant you go to in Lebanon. And it comes with all different toppings: grilled pine nuts, olives, roasted garlic. But there are ingredients to this terrific dish and here they are.
Estimated time: 20min
Servings: 4


Ingredients: 1 can of garbanzo beans (about 400g), 5 to 6 tablespoons of tahini (aka. sesame seed paste), 1/2 lemon, 2 garlic cloves, olive oil, salt

If you do not have access to fresh, uncooked chickpeas (aka. garbanzo beans), which is probably your case unless you live in the Middle East:
1. Place 1 can of prepared garbanzo beans in a pan. Add water to cover the beans. Bring to boil. You can find garbanzo bean cans at most supermarkets
2. Boil the beans for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain the beans but keep the water used to cook them (you will need about 1/4 cup of water)
3. Transfer the beans into a food processor. Then add salt, 2 garlic cloves chopped into small pieces, and the ¼ cup of water used to cook the beans. Whizz the mixture into a smooth purée.
4. Press 1/2 lemon and add the juice to the mixture
5. Add 5 to 6 tablespoons of tahini and process the mixture again

Taste – if the mixture is too thick, add a little bit of water or lemon juice. If the mixture is too liquid, add a little bit of tahini, but do not worry: putting the hummus in the fridge will thicken it. **What to look for when you taste?** Make sure you taste the tahini, lemon juice & salt. The hummus shouldn’t be bland.

6. Transfer the hummus into a small plate or shallow bowl.

Garnish (any of the following):
- paprika
- cumin
- pine nuts (grilled/fried in a little bit of vegetable oil)
- garbanzo beans – if you remembered to keep some on the side
- chopped  olives
- garlic (fried in a little bit of vegetable oil)
- chopped sun dried tomatoes
- sliced radish

The Finale: drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil and eat with Arabic/pita bread.

Also check out these Nutritional Facts about Humus