Hummus and tabbouleh are not considered foreign words any more—through sheer good taste and a growing interest in a healthy Mediterranean diet, they have earned their place in the common vernacular of English speakers around the world. But the Lebanese have a secret which, thanks to Barbara Abdeni Massaad, is now yours to make your own: their beloved hummus and tabbouleh are just the tip of the iceberg. A whole world of delights awaits you within these pages.
The word mezze may not translate directly, but don't let that put you off. It's the best part of eating Lebanese—as much a social event as it is a meal, mezze is a fabulous ambassador for a culture which prides itself on entertaining, eating healthy and making every guest feel uniquely indulged and reluctant to ever leave the table, except possibly for a nap! If you are lucky enough to experience a meal served traditionally beginning with mezze, you'll note that a ritual unfolds. The table will be set with an amazingly colorful and appetizing array of fresh vegetables on a platter, often sparkling with droplets of water, freshly washed just for you. No sooner have you cut into a softball-sized tomato than the center of the table is cleared to accommodate a series of fresh salads and cold appetizers, served in small plates meant for sharing. And just when you imagine your taste buds can't take anymore, the hot appetizers start to appear. Now you know you have a serious problem. Should you have started with smaller portions to save room for the plates which are still coming? Do you really need to change your plate for a clean one? Is it possible to press "reset" and start again?
This is the magic of mezze, why cooking and sharing food the Lebanese way brings people together, breaking cultural barriers around a table where eating so much more than "fast" food. In that moment, we feed the body and nourish the soul. It is truly a labor of love.
This collection of mezze recipes reflects Barbara's desire to guide us back towards simplicity. Fresh, seasonal ingredients and easy techniques encourage and support even the least experienced cook to success. She has distilled her own life experiences, tested over time, to bring you the best of the best recipes available.