Book Review – Rose Water & Orange Blossoms

We have a scary collection of middle-eastern (M-E) cookbooks (40+), so we’re reasonably familiar with the food over there. Sadly, the stereotype about M-E food is generally around “OMG, it’s too difficult, I need many spices and expensive ingredients“. This book will prove you the contrary!
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What we loved in this book right away is that it’s above all a very personal and intimate journey into Maureen Abood‘s life. It’s clear that she wanted to share with us her beautiful story, and her engaging tone does this incredibly well! Don’t expect only flashy-fancy recipes to impress die-hard, you’ll be missing the point. These recipes are perfect for a mid-week dinner for family and friends without breaking the bank. In short, this is as much (middle-eastern) comfort food as it gets!
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If you’re not familiar with Lebanese food – or middle-eastern food in general – this is the ideal book to get started. First, it has many recipes that cover not only Lebanese classics, but also some specialties from nearby countries. Second, most recipes are very practical and require less than a dozen ingredients that you’ll be able to source easily. Third, the recipes are very detailed and the book is filled with personal anecdotes, which makes it a very captivating read.
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Sure, this book won’t make you an expert in traditional and labour-intensive Lebanese food, but it will provide you plenty of simple and delicious dishes you’ll want to cook often. And unlike most “dry” cookbooks which are merely lists of recipes with a generic introduction, this book truly feels like a Lebanese friend that holds your hand to guide you through the amazing dishes of the middle-east. So give a try to the recipe below and you’ll quickly see (and taste) what this is all about!
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Phyllo Galette of Labneh, Caramelized Cherry Tomatoes, and Kalamata Olivers

Ingredients

  • 170g labneh or Greek yogurt
  • 1 large garlic clove (minced)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
  • 8 sheets phyllo dough
  • 120g clarified butter (melted)
  • 5 pitted kalamata olives (thinly sliced)
  • a few chives (chopped)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 375ºF / 190º C. Line a heavy sheet pan with parchment paper.
Step 2
In a bowl whisk the labneh or yogurt, garlic, and salt.
Step 3
In a sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium heat and sear the tomatoes cut-side down for 3-5 minutes (until caramelized and golden brown). Set aside.
Step 4
Place one sheet of phyllo on the prepared sheet pan and brush to dab it with a coat of butter. Place the next phyllo sheets on top, one over the other, brushing them all with butter. Leave longer edges so you can fold them over the filling at the end.
Step 5
Spoon the labneh or yogurt mixture in the center and spread it evenly. Place the caramelized tomatoes on top and scatter the olives over. Fold in the edges of the phyllo and brush it with the remaining butter.
Step 6
Bake until the phyllo turns golden brown,about 25-30 minutes. Drizzle the center with olive oil and sprinkle with the chopped chives.
Step 7
Serve it warm. Enjoy!

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