I have inherited my love for food from my family. Both my parents are food lovers, mom being loyal to traditional Lebanese cuisine, and dad being constantly on the lookout for new recipes and mixtures to try. They both grew up in a town in the Shouf called Joun, where growing plants and vegetables in the backyard is still a common practice.
I’ve sat across the table from them countless times, watching them relish in food combinations I never saw anywhere else. They always had an explanation as to why this goes with that, and I’ve made it a point to try every one of their mixtures and discover for myself what they’re talking about:
- Manakish with green fava beans: This has been on the menu ever since I was a kid. Whenever fava beans are out, we stopped eating cucumbers, mint and tomatoes with manakish and replaced them with fava beans. The juiciness and sweetness of the beans go perfectly well with the acidity of the mankouche’s thyme and sumac.
- Black olives with fresh oranges: My mother eats this as a digestive. In fact, she can eat a whole bread loaf with olives and oranges after lunch! She says that the acidity of oranges mixes perfectly well with the sharpness of black olives.
- Zaatar sandwich with green figs: This was apparently my grandmother’s favorite snack. She used to handpick the green figs from the garden and enjoy them with a zaatar sandwich, saying that the sweetness of the figs balances the zaatar’s acidity just fine.
- Carob molasses (debs el kharoub) with lettuce, cabbage or chicory (hindbeh) leaves: According to my mother, eating carob molasses with green leaves is much, much tastier than eating it with bread. She says that the crunchiness of fresh green leaves mixes greatly with the extra sweetness of the carob molasses.
- Scrambled eggs with sautéed wild asparagus and a side of green fava beans: This one is my all-time favourite egg-based dish. Wild asparagus is something that grows in Lebanon; it looks like the regular asparagus but is much thinner and with a more unique taste. Of course, it isn’t complete without the sweetness and juiciness of fava beans!
Voilà! I invite you to rediscover your taste buds with these unusual combinations. Bon appétit!