Introduction To Lebanese Cuisine

Lebanon is located west of the Mediterranean and just south of Israel. During its heyday, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon was often referred to as the Paris of the Middle East. Today however, Lebanon is known mainly for being one of the largest construction sites in the world.

Lebanese cuisine is a direct representation of the Mediterranean diet, which typically includes:
* Starches
* Vegetables
* Seafood
* Fruits
* Minimal amount of animal fats

Red meat is also an ingredient of Lebanese food, though this is mostly lamb. Very little use is made of animal fats in Lebanese cooking, which depends heavily on olive oil instead. Most Lebanese foods are heavily flavored with spices and herbs such as mint, oregano, garlic, parsley, nutmeg and cinnamon. The Lebanese always use fresh ingredients and they almost never eat leftover food.

Preparing a true Lebanese dish includes plenty of garlic and olive oil. Most dishes are grilled, baked or sauted in the olive oil. Generally the only form of red meat that is consumed is lamb. A great deal of what is eaten is dictated by the seasons of the year and crops, but also cooking with the health conscious benefits in mind. The cooking process can often take a long time so consider using a crock pot instead for the meat dishes. Slow cooker recipes are so easy and save you tons of time.

While Lebanese foods vary according to the season and the crops available, there is one dish, kibbeh, which is available all year round. This combination of cracked wheat (Bulgur) and finely ground tender lamb is one of the most popular dishes in Lebanon.

There are three Kibbeh varieties:
* Raw kibbeh is the most commonly eaten variety and is comparable to steak tartar.
* Kibbeh bil-saneeya (the kibbeh paste is combined with a tasty nut mixture and baked in a large dish)
* Kibbeh rass (deep fried kibbeh balls)

Bread is the most important staple food in Lebanese cuisine. In fact, the Arabic word for bread is "esh", which is also the word for 'life' or 'living'.

As in every culture, the Lebanese celebrate special occasions, including religious holidays, by preparing sumptuous meals to share with friends and family. Lebanese Christians usually serve sugarcoated almonds at Christmas, followed by a meal consisting of a turkey or chicken dish. Dessert is often a French Christmas cake in the shape of a Yule log.

Lebanese meals are best when accompanied with one of their excellent local wines such as Ksara, Chateau Kefraya, and Chateau Musar, the three most popular wines in Lebanon.

Lebanon's national drink, however, is not wine but Arak. This clear, unsweetened beverage has an anise flavor and high alcohol content. Arak, known as the "milk of lions" in the Middle East, is essentially the same drink as the Greek ouzo, the Turkish raki or the Spanish anisado.

Another part of the Lebanese culinary culture is the Mezze, which would also be known as an appetizer. This is a manner in which food is served and it can be eaten before the meal or at the end.

One of the most popular desserts in Lebanon, and in many other eastern Mediterranean countries, is Baklava. This is a rich pastry made of baked layers of thin phyllo dough and chopped pistachio nuts and sweetened with heavy syrup made of honey and rose water. Lebanese coffee, very strong and thick, and sometimes flavored with cardamom, is traditionally served with dessert.


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