Lebanon is a beautiful country located along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean ocean, bordering Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. This historic geographic location has a rich culture that dates back thousands of years to the dawn of civilization. This country is very small at only 10,400 square kilometers, or roughly 1/6th the size of Tasmania. Since this is such a small country it has been controlled by dominant empires for hundreds of years and incorporating each of these cultures into their cuisine.
Roughly 30 percent of the country can produce crops, so the Lebanese people are heavily dependent on other countries resources to make their delicious cuisine. The country primarily produces potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers so fresh vegetables are the cornerstone of a Lebanese meal. To fully understand what makes Lebanese cuisine so distinctly delicious you must understand the rich history of the region and how this has affected their cuisine.
The rich history of Lebanon dates to 8,000 BC when the first people began to settle in the area. The ancient city of Byblos in Lebanon, is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, with the first people settling in 5,000 BC. During the last 6,000 years, Lebanon has been ruled by Phoenicians, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Arab rulers, Ottomans, and the French before becoming a sovereign nation in 1943. These empires have contributed greatly to the culture of the Lebanon. The people have adopted spices, fruits, vegetables, bread, and nearly everything in the kitchen from these various empires. In addition to the ruling empires, this coastal country was also one of the major trading posts for travelers along the ancient silk road. This kept the citizens of this historic region constantly stocked with the best ingredients from all over the world.
Now that you have learned about the rich culture of the region and the ingredients that make these meals mouthwatering, you can practice cooking the traditional Lebanese salad, Tabbouleh.
• 1/2 cup of bulgur wheat, extra fine
• 4 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced
• 1 English cucumber, finely diced
• 15 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
• 2 bunches of parsley, cut fine
• 4 green onions, thinly sliced
• Juice of one lemon, or lime if you prefer
• ¼ cup olive oil
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Served with Romaine lettuce if you like
1. Wash the bulgur wheat and then soak it in warm water for 5-7 minutes. Remove from water and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Set aside to dry while you prepare the rest of the meal.
2. Chop and slice vegetables as indicated above. Store tomatoes in a colander so the excess juice can drain.
3. Add vegetables and bulgur to mixing bowl and gentle mix by hand. Add salt as needed.
4. Add lemon juice and olive oil and continue to mix.
5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve wrapped in lettuce leaves, or with pita bread depending on your preference.