Meet perfection: Dolma Stuffed With Goat Labneh

Some of the greatest local products remain unknown, and I believe it is a shame, so I will be regularly dedicating some posts to tell you about my best food discoveries.

I will start with one of the best local dairy innovations – I think – till date! This star product is the stuffed grape leaves from Jaber Jaber Sons Dairy Company – أبناء جابر جابر.

Grape leaves stuffed with goat labneh picture

Hello Perfection!

Let’s describe the product first: grape leaves are stuffed with goat labneh then rolled into tiny perfect dolmas and sold in a small jar full of olive oil for 13,000 L.L.

I discovered them last year in the Beirut Food Festival – I wrote about them in my article back then “For the love of food… and chocolate“.  I was impressed by the generosity of the people behind the stand, displaying all of their amazing products and insisting on everyone to try everything, not to mention that I was attracted by the Bekaa accent that I would recognize anywhere. I do believe that the Bekaa is the most generous region in Lebanon.

I think I fall in love with these dolmas when I had my first bite. I bought a jar back then, and served them as appetizers once. Everybody was amazed.

The jar – 300 g – contains 39 pieces of pure happiness. Ingredients, as per the jar: labneh prepared with pasteurized fresh goat cheese milk, olives and olive oil.

Jar of dolmas

The jar

They last for up to one year, but do not worry about that. Once you open the jar, be prepared to watch the dolmas disappear in no time.

It is just amazing how elegant and beautiful they are. No one looked at them without wondering how they could get such perfectly rolled thin dolmas. I even googled them. I couldn’t find such perfect work.

And when you get to try them, the surprise! Believe me; you can never expect how good these simple ingredients match unless you taste them!

These grape leaves do not taste like regular canned fresh leaves. Oh no! They keep a pleasant slightly crunchy texture that shows the freshness of the used leaves. As for the olive oil, it is excellent. Forget about vegetable oils – or even water – that are regularly used in such cases. No compromises on any detail are made apparently.

Even though I just had some dolmas for breakfast – which I think is very normal by the way – I recommend you serve them as appetizers or as tapas – mezze – along with drinks whenever you have guests.

I believe I’ve said enough about these yummy creations to make you stop on your next visit to Bekaa in Mreijat and give them a try. And since you’re there, I suggest you try as well the capriccio – their signature sheep cheese – plain or pickled in hot oil. I’ll be telling you about it later!

Baby Spinach And Artichoke Salad Recipe

image

Colorful yumminess

I spotted lately, and for the first time in our local supermarkets, some baby spinach punnets (in Monop Gemmayze and Marché Piétons Hazmieh), so I got them and started experimenting with salads.

They’re still a bit pricey – around 6,000 LBP per punnet, but I think they’ll get cheaper when they’ll become more available.

I have prepared three salads till date, and I can say that baby spinach is absolutely delicious with cheese; I tried it with goat cheese, Gouda and spicy cheddar, and I think it will go well with blue cheese, parmesan, halloumi, baby mozzarella…

Baby spinach is already picked when in punnets, so it’s very easy to prepare. All you need to do is to wash it, and voilà, it’s ready.

For this post, I’ll share with you a salad recipe that I prepared for dinner, and that was by far the best one. It’s a 4-ingredient salad with a simple lemon-mustard dressing that you’ll simply love… As for your guests, they’ll keep asking for more, trust me on that!

Baby Spinach And Artichoke Salad Recipe

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 punnet Baby spinach
  • 1 small can artichoke hearts
  • 10 sundried tomatoes (in oil)
  • 75 g goat cheese

To prepare the dressing:

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Crumble the goat cheese using a fork.
  2. Cut the artichoke hearts into 2 or 4, depending on their size.
  3. Cut each sundried tomato into 2 pieces.
  4. Wash the baby spinach, dry them with a clean towel and put in the bottom of a serving dish.
  5. Add the crumbled goat cheese, the artichoke hearts and the sundried tomatoes.
  6. To prepare the dressing: mix all the ingredients in a small closed jar.
  7. Pour the dressing over the veggies just before serving.

The Angry Monkey: Excellent Food, Bad Attitude

Meet one of my new favorite pizzerias in town! For those of you who haven’t been there yet, I advise you to give the place a try, and this, despite the incident that happened with me and that I’ll tell you about below.

I have already been there twice for lunch, and I literally loved everything I tried.

Located in Gemmayze, facing Couqley (same owners apparently), it has a much better facade on the main Gemmayze street. The lunch deal is amazing: for 25,000 LBP, you get a salad and a pizza (or even burgers or a sandwich) valid on weekdays only – not on holidays though. So if you have the chance to be working in the neighborhood, or better, if your schedule is flexible, go there for lunch.  

The Salads

The salads are varied and interesting: from kale to edamame, quinoa, artichoke, noodles, all are non-conventional and will make you want to try them.

Bresaola and Wild Rocca Salad

Bresaola and Wild Rocca Salad picture

Bresaola and Wild Rocca Salad

On our first visit, we tried the Bresaola and wild rocca salad: the dish looks more like a carpaccio, with a bed of thin bresaola, covered with a salad of wild rocket leaves, fennel, cooked bacon and omelet strips and dressed with a balsamic sauce. I loved the freshness of the ingredients, and believe it was a good start for an excellent meal, even if salads are a bit overpriced if you are not having the lunch fix. This salad, for example, costs 23,000LBP.

Artichoke Edamame Manchego

Artichoke Edamame Manchego Salad picture

Artichoke Edamame Manchego

The second salad that we had was kind of exotic: Artichoke Edamame Manchego. That was one weird and unique salad: having edamame in a salad is just not so common. The artichokes hearts were good, and I love Manchego – the famous Spanish cheese. The combination of these three with lettuce and balsamic drizzle is interesting, and I recommend you to try this salad if you are fan of non-traditional salads. It costs 23,000LBP as well.

Goat cheese and fig salad

Goat cheese and fig salad picture

Goat cheese and fig salad

A traditional all-time favorite, where the goat cheese is crumbled and served with delicious dried figs and cherry tomatoes on a bed of lollo rosso leaves. The salad is simple, fresh and recommended, but I would add some more sweetness to the balsamic dressing, to make it more special. It is for 21,000 LBP.  

The Pizzas

Now let’s check the pizzas. I already tried 3 out of 9 only, but all 3 were amazing. The crust is thin, without being crispy like a Lebanese meat pie, which is excellent. It’s not chewy, it’s big enough, and, guess what, you can ask to have the leftovers as a take-away (if anything is left). The toppings are so full of flavors, and the pizzas are served with excellent hot oil.

Farmer’s market

Farmer's Market Pizza picture

Farmer’s Market

Topped with roasted eggplant and zucchini slices – the menu mentioned butternut squash but I didn’t have any – this pizza is a must-try mainly because of the caramelized onions which are adding a hint of sweetness that goes well with the over-all flavor. The cheese used is delicious, and really different from the ones you usually have. All this is for 24,000LBP.

Chorizo

Chorizo pizza picture

Chorizo

Another must-try: for 26,000 LBP, a delicious pizza topped with artichoke, mushrooms and some delicious Spanish chorizo. As for the cheese used, it’s a mixture of buffalo & classic mozzarella. Just drizzle some hot oil and enjoy!

Buffalo Bill Pizza

Buffalo Bill pizza picture

Buffalo Bill Pizza

This is a more regular pizza, with only field mushrooms, classic and buffalo mozzarella and Parma ham. But regular does not mean less tasty, or less good. This pizza is excellent, mainly because of the cheese used. The Parma ham is good, but could be better. This pizza is for 27,000 LBP.

Sandwiches

Monkey Burgers Picture

Monkey Burgers

You’re not in a mood for pizzas? Then you can go for sandwiches. We tried the Monkey Burgers: two delicious medium burgers with a delicious sauce. But beware; if you’re planning some classy eating – in a first date for example, this is not a good choice. You will probably end up with some stains on your clothes, and guess what? They’re totally worth it. The burgers are served with French fries for 19,000LBP.

An incident that could’ve been avoided

Now, let me tell you about the incident that happened when we ordered the Buffalo Bill pizza. It was lunch time, and we were the only customers in the place. We were eating our salad when we could smell some burnt foods – dough probably. I told my boyfriend that this was our food obviously, and I was anxious because I did not want to be late for work, now that they’ll have to start over preparing another pizza.

Burnt pizza

Would you serve such a pizza to your customers?

To our big surprise, the waiter arrived with the burnt pizza. Literally burnt on one side – check the picture. Seriously, how does the chef accept to send such a mess to a customer? My boyfriend had a slice from the other non-burnt side, and the bottom was burnt as well, in spots. Burnt taste everywhere. When we told the waiter, he took it immediately but he had to say: “it’s only the sides probably”.

The pizza was replaced with an excellent one, and we really enjoyed it, and I’ll go again to the place to try more pizzas and salads, but seriously guys, it’s the whole experience that matters to your customers and not only the food. The guy who looked like the manager did apologize when we were leaving, explaining that the oven was too hot, because it was the first pizza of the day.

What are you ordering for lunch today?

Are you wondering what to have for lunch today? If you are planning to have some food delivered to your office, below are my suggestions for foods I’ve tried lately and that I loved! All of these are very affordable, all are delicious, and all are not the conventional lunch that you usually order!  

Burger anyone?

Burger Bar picture

Burger Bar , the signature burger

Located in Bourj Hammoud, Burger Bar quickly became one of the favorite places to order lunch from, mainly because of the quality price ratio. Yeah, prices are very low compared to other burger places, and you are getting a very good burger for what you’re paying. This is not a fine dining experience. If you’re looking for a Gourmet burger, go away. This is a burger place for the greedy ones only! Burgers there are super juicy, greedy, appetizing… and most importantly, generous! (And loaded with calories, but who’s counting anyway?) Try their signature “Burger Bar” – for 7,000 LBP only! – with crispy bacon, avocado slices, cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles and their special sauce. Yummy!

black pepper burger Picture

Black pepper burger

Another good pick would be black pepper burger: for 6,000 LBP only, with black pepper sauce, tomatoes, pickles, lettuces and delicious black pepper sauce – and no, it’s still not a gourmet burger.

Check their Facebook page here!

Delicious Cups and Rolls

Cups & Roll image

Cups & Roll

I tried my first cup two years ago, in Beirut Food Festival, and I could never remember if I loved it. Anyway, in a food festival, you are always trying hundreds of stuff, so you’re not enjoying everything on its own. It was very recently that I saw the Cup and Roll fever everywhere on Social media, and among my friends, so I thought it was time to give it a more serious try. For my first time, I ordered 4 cups, 1 roll and a salad. That was too much, and I could not eat more than 4 spoons of salad.

The cups

Cup and roll picture

The four cups

The Margherita is delicious, juicy and simple, with roasted cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, for 2,000 LBP per piece.

Served with guacamole dip, the Mexican chicken is interesting: chicken, colored bell peppers, mushrooms, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and a spicy tomato sauce. Beware, it’s really hot! (2,250 LBP per piece).

My favorite cup was the soujouk. With mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, it is just exquisite! Served with a tomato side dip, it costs 1,750 LBP per piece.

Shredded mozzarella, roasted cherry tomatoes and a pepperoni slice make the pepperoni cup a unique one. For 1,750 LBP only, make sure to try it next time you order from there!

The roll

The Grilled veggies and Halloumi was one delicious juicy roll, due to the tomato sauce used first, and to the delicious combination of halloumi cheese and vegetables (eggplants, marrows, red and green bell pepper). It’s sold for 1,750 LBP per piece.

The salad

Green & Orange salad picture

Green & Orange salad

Green leaves (Rocket leaves, watercress – bakleh and fresh thyme) are served on a bed of quinoa (even though the menu did not state that) with orange quarters, walnuts and parmesan cheese shaves for 9,000 LBP. The dressing of the Green & Orange salad is interesting: orange juice adds an excellent sweetness to the salad.

Check their website here!

Shawarma with a twist

Beefmanji pomegranate sandwich picture

Beefmanji pomegranate Sandwich

When I first tried Shawarmanji, I did not feel that it was worth the buzz that was created around it. I thought it was more like a healthy version of shawarma, and I was not really happy about adding healthiness to my favorite sandwich. This time, I tried a new sandwich, a shawarma with a twist: the beefmanji pomegranate. That was just delicious, and I’ll be going again soon for some more! The regular shawarma was taken to the next level in this sandwich, adding some delicious pomegranate molasses to the usual beef, onions, parsley, sumac and grilled tomatoes. For 7,000 LBP only, it’s definitely worth a try. (You might want to order two,or a combo!)

Visit their website here!

Blue Cheese Pasta Recipe

Blue cheese pasta picture

Blue cheese pasta topped with mushrooms

Blue cheese was last month’s ingredient, but I did not have the time to share more recipes last month, so I’ll start again this month.

Today’s dish is extremely easy to prepare, and it’s ready on your table in 20 minutes only! Anyone who is a fan of blue cheese will love it, and you can add some more ingredients like chicken or walnuts.

Whenever I want to impress, I prepare this blue cheese pasta with another pasta dish – a simple pasta with tomato sauce, and I serve them both on the same plate. You should try this!

Let’s check this easy recipe for recipe now!

Blue Cheese Pasta Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 200 g pasta
  • 100 g blue cheese (Replace with Gorgonzola or Roquefort for better results)
  • 100 – 150 ml cooking cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

To prepare the mushrooms:

  • 8 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped basil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

 

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package’s instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. To prepare the mushrooms: melt the butter, add in the basil and cook for a minute, then add the wine and leave for an additional minute, add the mushrooms and cook on low heat until tender. Season them with salt and pepper.
  3. Melt the butter in a pot and add 100 ml of cream. When it’s hot, add the crumbled cheese and stir until it completely melts. Taste, and add some more cream if you think it’s very strong. Add in the pasta, season the dish with salt and white pepper and top with the mushrooms before serving.

You can serve with dish some Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.