Eat Local

Mtashtash – Tabbouleh Kezzebeh

Mtashtash (متشتش) is a satiating salad with an abundance of bulgur, commonly prepared in the Akkar region of Northern Lebanon. It is also known as blileh or even “fake tabbouleh” (tabbouleh kezzebeh – تبولة كذّابة). The word mtashtash means soaked and refers to the bulgur that is mixed with the other ingredients. This traditional recipe is typically prepared during Lent and is served with cooked or fresh cabbage leaves, or it can be scooped with fresh lettuce leaves.

Mtashtash Recipe:
(Recipe courtesy of Rose Bitar from Fneidik, Akkar)

Serves: 5 people
Calories: 650 calories per serving
Preparation Time: 30 mins


2 cups of coarse bulgur
5 tbsp. of chickpeas (cooked)
1 tbsp. of tomato paste
1 tsp. of chili paste
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 cup of olive oil
2 medium sized tomatoes
2 bunches of parsley
1 bunch of mint
4 green onions
Juice of 1 squeezed lemon
Salt to taste

Preparation Steps:

  1. Wash the bulgur thoroughly.
  2. In a bowl, rub the bulgur with the garlic, olive oil, tomato paste and chili paste; mix the ingredients well and leave them aside.
  3. Finely chop the parsley, mint and green onions and add them to the bulgur mix.
  4. Dice the tomatoes and add them to the bulgur mix.
  5. Finally, add the chickpeas, lemon juice and salt and mix well.
  6. Serve cold with boiled or fresh cabbages or with fresh lettuce leaves.

Mansoufeh: A Flavorful Dish from West Bekaa and Al Chouf

Flattened mansoufeh balls

Mansoufeh is a comfort food in West Bekaa villages like Kherbet Qanafar, Ain Zebdeh and Mashgara and in villages across the Chouf district. It is a traditional vegetarian meal containing a delicious and healthy mix of wholegrain carbohydrates and veggies, which makes it a satisfying and energizing main dish.

Typically, mansoufeh consists of bulgur (burghul) rolled into small flat balls that are cooked in tomato sauce with chopped onions that are seasoned with sumac. It is customary for mansoufeh to be prepared on Good Friday.

Preparation of the mansoufeh dough

Bulgur (burghul) which is an important ingredient in Lebanese cuisine produced in the Bekaa Valley and one of the key ingredients of mansoufeh, is a great source of complex carbohydrates packed with vitamins, minerals and fibers which can improve digestion and gut health.

Another ingredient in mansoufeh is pumpkin, which is a superfood containing tons of minerals and vitamins and has low caloric content. Pumpkin, which is harvested in the Bekaa during fall, is an excellent source of vitamin A and C which helps boost the immune system. Mansoufeh contains a generous amount of onions, which are nutrient-dense and are high in vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants that help prevent several diseases.

Mansoufeh Recipe:
(Recipe courtesy of Noha Bou Rached’s Guesthouse in Ain Zebdeh, West Bekaa)

Preparation time: 1 hr 30 min

Recipe serves: 8


• 3 cups of fine bulgur
• 2 cups of flour
• 1 cup of pumpkin, boiled and drained (keep the pumpkin water for later use)
• 2 kg of onions, sliced into shreds
• 2 tbsp. of verjuice
• Water (enough to fill the cooking pot up halfway)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 cup of olive oil divided (to fry the onions and to serve mansoufeh)

Boiling mansoufeh balls boiling in water
Frying onions and mansoufeh balls in olive oil


  1. Chop and boil pumpkin until the pieces are soft, then drain the pumpkin and save the water.
  2. In a bowl, mash the cooked pumpkin and mix them with bulgur, flour, salt and pepper.
  3. Gradually add the pumpkin water until the dough becomes firm.
  4. Shape the dough into small balls and flatten them between your thumb and index finger.
  5. In a pot, boil water and salt. Add the flattened balls and let them cook for 2-3 minutes or until they float on the surface, remove and drain.
  6. In a saucepan, fry the onions in olive oil and keep them aside.
  7. Spread the remaining olive oil over a big tray and add the flattened mansoufeh balls and onions.
  8. Pour the verjuice and mix all the ingredients together gently.
  9. Serve warm!
Adding tomato sauce to the fried mansoufeh and onions

Where to Enjoy Mansoufeh?

The Bekka Valley:
Noha Bou Rached’s Guesthouse – Ain Zebdeh, West Bekaa: 08-670-572
Lina Saade’s Guesthouse – Kherbet Qanafar, West bekaa: 70-671-399

Al Chouf District:
Eid Guesthouse – Ain Zhalta, Al Chouf: 71-131-104
Streech Guesthouse – Brih, Al Chouf: 76-711-811 (Cezar Mahmoud)
FarmVille Barouk – Barouk, Al Chouf: 76-711-811 (Cezar Mahmoud)
El Achkar Guesthouse – Khreibeh, Al Chouf: 03-354-558
KAÏA Guesthouse – Barouk, Al Chouf: 81-060-621


Makdous: A Healthy Pickled Delight

Contributing writer: Jameel Dabbagh

A delicious and healthy plate of makdous

An ancient culinary delight, the roots of makdous stem from Syria although it is a beloved staple throughout Levantine and Middle Eastern cuisine. It consists of oil-cured baby eggplants and is traditionally stuffed with a flavorful mix of roasted capsicum (red peppers), walnuts, garlic, salt and olive oil. These ingredients are used in makdous recipes across Lebanon. The Qaa village in the district of Baalbeck is renowned for its makdous which is made from irrigated eggplants in the Masharee al-Qaa agricultural area.

Autumn is considered “makdous season.” The season extends from the end of September into October. A comforting snack, it is prepared mainly in households and by local small-scale producers and local coops. It is eaten for breakfast or dinner and is considered a side dish in many homes across Lebanon and the Levant. Fall is an ideal time to prepare makdous, as it is when small and tender black-colored eggplants are harvested. The season also coincides with when walnuts are harvested and when red peppers are at their ripest. In Lebanon, the two eggplant varieties are locally known as Bou Shawki and El Homsi. Makdous production also plays an important role in improving rural livelihoods and empowering women, as many of the makdous producers in the villages tend to be women who make an income from selling makdous and other mouneh products. In Lebanon, makdous is also an essential part of the mezze spread which is an assortment of finger foods served as an appetizer at restaurants.

Makdous pickled in a jar

Every component of makdous offers various nutritional benefits. The eggplant itself is an excellent source of potassium and fibers. The stuffing of the eggplants comprises a tasty combination of healthy ingredients. Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids making it an essential heart-healthy food. Additionally, capsicums are an excellent source of vitamins A, E, B6 and most importantly are one of the richest dietary sources of essential vitamin C. They also contain many healthy antioxidants that are good for eye health. Moreover, the essential and flavorful ingredient, garlic, is a very good source of manganese and vitamin C, besides several minerals including phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and copper. Garlic compounds can reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, hence lowering the risk of heart disease. Overall, this combination preserved in olive oil constitutes a healthy appetizer when consumed moderately.

10 kg of baby eggplants
1 kg walnuts
1 garlic bulb
1 kg ground coarse salt
3 kg sweet red capsicum

1. Wash the eggplants and put them in a bag, then put them in a saucepan that contains boiling water. Let the water boil for about five minutes, and then wash them under cold water and cool the eggplants in order to prevent them from blackening.

2. Remove the stems and slit each eggplant with a knife in the middle, then put some of the coarse salt inside the slit and put the eggplant back into a bag and put a weight on it so that it is compressed and drained of water. The compression should last between 24 to 48 hours.

3. To prepare the filling, chop some walnuts, garlic and capsicum. Add coarse and crushed salt (salt according to your preference).

4. Once the eggplant is drained, stuff if it with mixed ingredients and then place the eggplants in clean, pre-sterilized jars.

5. Add oil to fully immerse the eggplants and leave them for 48 hours, if the oil level drops below the eggplant add more oil so that the eggplants remain submerged. Leave them to cure for about two weeks before eating, the longer you marinate them, the more sour they will be.

Ain Loz Coop preparing makdous in the Ain Ata Village, Rachaya District, West Bekaa (photo courtesy of Yasmin Olabi)
Jars full of makdous prepared by the Ain Loz Coop in the Ain Ata Village, Rachaya District, West Bekaa (photo courtesy of Yasmin Olabi)

Best practices for making makdous:

• The size of the eggplant is an important factor, if the eggplant is too big then it will have too many seeds and it will have a bitter taste. There are several varieties to choose from when making makdous: black, purple or even white eggplants.

• When grinding nuts, try to grind roughly so that a coarse texture for the stuffing is achieved.

• It is possible to use vegetable oil only, provided that it is of good quality, but it is preferable to mix olive oil with vegetable oil.

• Do not use olive oil alone because the oil freezes in the winter, which facilitates the entry of air into the product and leads to the formation of bacteria. High temperatures are ideal for the fermentation process.

• The most important factor in properly preserving makdous is extracting as much water from the eggplants as possible.

• The shelf life of makdous is approximately two years.

Tray full of makdous

Where to buy makdous:

The Bekaa Valley:

Rachaya, Bekaa: Ibtisam Barakat
ج.ت النسائية للتصنيع الزراعي – وادي التيم م.م

Kfarmeshki, Bekaa: Rola Fawzi Al Farikh
ج.ت لانتاج الحليب في كفرمشكي وجوارها م.م

Ain Ata, Bekaa: Hanan El Sahili
ج.ت الانتاجية في عين عطا – عين اللوز م.م

Kherbet Qanafar, Bekaa: Lina Saadeh
لقمة وريف

Kherbet Qanafar, Bekaa: Amila Azzam

Khiara, Bekaa: Najla Haidar
خيرات بقاعنا – الانتاجية في الخيارة

Sultan Yaaqoub, Bekaa: Sawsan Abou Salheh
لتصنيع الغذائي في السلطان يعقوب

Sohmor, Bekaa: Zeinab Abbas
الجمعية النساىية للتنمية الاجتماعية

Kamed El Loz, Bekaa: Bassam Taha
نادي كامد اللوز الثقافي

Ksarnaba, Bekka: Rabiaa Dirani
الجمعية التعاونية الانتلجية في قصرنبا و الجوار

Qab Elias, Bekaa: Mohana Haidar
دار فريدة

Bedneyel, Bekaa: Chadia Haidar
76-641 471

Southern Lebanon:

Zawtar, Nabatiyeh: Mohamad Ali Nehme
الجمعيية التعاونية الزراعية النباتات الطبية والعطرية في زوطر الشرقية وجوارها

Deir Mimas, Marjeyoun: Amal Hanna
الجمعية التعاونية لزراعة العضوية وتربية النحل في ديرميماس وجوارها م.م

Rihan, Jezzine: Sahjanan Hassoune
الجمعية التعاونية الزراعية العامة
70-518-826 or 03-721-607

Eat Local

Sumac: A Uniquely Versatile Spice

Contributing writer: Jameel Dabbagh

The sumac flower

Where Does Summac Come From?

With deep red hues and a rich culinary history that extends across the globe, sumac is an essential ingredient in Lebanese kitchens and throughout the Arab world. It comes from the berries of the sumac flower which is a member of the cashew family. The wild plant grows in Mediterranean areas such as Sicily in southern Italy and parts of the Middle East most notably Iran. Although it grows in different regions around the world such as Turkey, Yemen Iran and Greece, the sumac flower is said to hail mainly from subtropical and temperate areas in East Asia, Africa and North America.

Sumac powder

Medicinal Uses

An exotic spice, sumac not only has a bold flavor but is also filled with many health-giving qualities. Thousands of years ago, physicians used it as an astringent, antiseptic and tonic. Various cultures around the world have used sumac for its healing properties. Smooth sumac has been used by different Native American tribes as an antiemetic, antidiarrheal, antihemorrhagic, blister treatment, cold remedy, emetic, mouthwash, asthma treatment, tuberculosis remedy, sore throat treatment, ear medicine, eye medicine, heart medicine, venereal aid, ulcer treatment and to treat rashes.

Culinary Uses

Aside from its medicinal properties, it has many culinary uses and is commonly used as a condiment to season, enhance and compliment flavors. It is harvested from the sumac flower, picked, dried and then ground into a powder-like substance. In Arab countries, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, sumac is a major ingredient along with thyme and salt in za’atar, which is used as a seasoning on fried and barbecued meat, or it is combined with olive oil to make a tasty dip.  Native Americans use the fruits of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) and staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) to make an Indian lemonade called “sumac-ade.” This drink is prepared by soaking the ripe fruits of sumac in water and rubbing them to extract the essence which is then strained through a cotton cloth to produce a liquid which is sweetened.

Fattoush seasoned with sumac

Sumac is a versatile spice that is often used to enhance tastes and flavors. It can be rubbed on meats, chicken, or fish, added to marinades or used to increase the acidity in yogurt sauces or vinaigrettes. Due to its attractive red color it is often used as a decorative garnish on dishes such as hummus. Examples of dishes using sumac include (but are not limited to): shawerma mousakhan (Palestinian chicken), Lebanese fattoush, parsley and sumac salad, spiced kumara (sweet potato) dip, with crisp flatbread, Turkish potato salad, gavurdagi, African spice mix and many other dishes from around the world! In the Lebanese rural cuisine, this spice is used to season jabali tomato with garlic, a traditional appetizer, and it adds a rich flavor to “kebbeh sumakiyeh” a vegetarian type of kebbeh.

Where to buy Sumac

Nabatieh, East Zawtar: Mohamad Neameh (Abou Kassem) — Agricultural Cooperative Society of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: 70-845-194

Al Warhanyi, Chouf: Wissam Ghanem — Al-Wissam Products: 70-274-695

Bent Jbeil, Ain Qibil: Tamam Maroun— Agricultural Cooperative Association for the Production of Food Processing: 03-745-098

For more tasty sumac recipes check out:

Farmers and Producers

The Heritage Guardians: Lina Haddad Tomato Paste Producer

Known for its abundant tomatoes, Kherbet Qanafar in West Bekaa produces some of the tastiest tomato paste in Lebanon. As part of the “The Heritage Guardians” series which highlights local producers in the framework of the MedSnail project, ESDU met Lina Haddad, a seasoned producer who has been making tomato paste for the past 13 years with her husband. Subtle and special, Lina’s tomato paste is worth a taste.

Events Souk aal Souk

Souk aal Souk in Bourj Hammoud

Souk aal Souk in Bourj Hammoud

To celebrate traditional Armenian & Lebanese food, The Food Heritage Foundation, in collaboration with the Municipality of Bourj Hammoud and the Environment & Sustainable Development Unit – American University of Beirut (AUB), presents “Souk Aal Souk in Bourj Hammoud”.

Join us on Sunday November 1st 2015, in Arin Center Street from 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Don’t miss out on the delicious food and the fun activities awaiting you all!

This event is sponsored by Batchig (Gold Sponsor) and Byblos Bank (Silver Sponsor)