By Salma Hage
Phaidon Press 49.95 512 pages
The Lebanese Kitchen is an extensive volume of Lebanese food from appetizers and salad, meat-based entrees, to succulent desserts. The book opens by offering a description of Lebanese food: where it comes from, what seasonings make up the basis of Lebanese food, and how to think about and approach a Lebanese meal. This cookbook contains recipe sections including: basic recipes, appetizers and salads, meat, fish, breads, drinks, and desserts.
“Traditional Lebanese food is based on the rhythm of the seasons and locally available produce – a natural way of life that many of us now strive to get back to in our desire for sustainability.”
The basic recipe section is an interesting beginning to this cookbook breaking down the basic herb and spice blends, sauces, and cooking essentials. Not only does this give the cook a chance to really dig in to the flavor profiles that create a Lebanese profile, it also gives the cook the opportunity to really explore some of the spices that may be less familiar to a mainstream pallet. Understanding these flavors is essential for making food that has the appropriate layers of flavor.
It concludes with a Guest Chef section. This section contains a short synopsis of each included chef, and then a small number of their preferred recipes. These chefs are well versed in Lebanese cooking and this section adds a lot of roundness through the different perspectives.
This cookbook is generally approachable for many chefs, regardless of your experience. Conveniently, the book provides the recipe list in the order of use, so that it is easy to navigate back and forth between the recipe list and the instructions. However, in several recipes, it was observed that the book omitted quantities of certain ingredients. While the instructions may reference cooking lamb, the ingredients list did not contain a listing for how much and what type of lamb is required. Intermediate to experienced cooks will likely be able to adapt to the recipe and have an intuitive sense of what quantity makes sense for the recipe.
Reviewed By Rachel J. Richards