Rose Water and Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from my Lebanese Kitchen, written by Maureen Abood, features over 100 traditional Lebanese and Lebanese-inspired dishes from her family and childhood. There is a wonderful balance of some of the more well-known dishes (Baklawa, Kibbeh- multiple types, Hushweh, Fatayer, Muhammara, and Baba Gannouj), along with variations on the classics (Avocado Tabbouleh, Pomegranate Rose Sorbet, and Roasted Leg of Lamb with Black Cherry-Pomegranate Salsa). I will also be sharing her recipe for Fattoush Salad following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Running Press in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Maureen Abood was born in the United States to a Lebanese-American family. She left her job in Chicago to attend culinary school in San Franciso before settling in Michigan to be near her family. She has an award winning food blog with the same name as the cookbook: Rose Water and Orange Blossoms.
Rose Water & Orange Blossoms
Chapters are divided based on course: Introduction, Flavor Makers, Maza and Salads, Main Dishes, Grains and Legumes, Pastry and Sweets, Breads and Savory Pies, Pickles and Preserves, and Drinks. Abood also provides a list of menu guides for those looking for a little inspiration: A Summer Cookout, An Elegant Dinner, A Spring Luncheon, A Cocktail Party, A Holiday Brunch, A Winter Gathering, A Vegan Menu, and A Gluten-Free Menu.
Scattered across the pages are family stories involving food. Abood includes various cooking tips, such as how to remove the seeds from a pomegranate, picking grape leaves, peeling chickpeas, and what to look for when picking out eggplants. For those who enjoy making yogurt, there is a guide to making Lebanese yogurt, Laban, and the thick cheese, Labneh. For Kibbeh fans, she offers a variety of recipes: Raw Kibbeh (with tips on working safely with raw meat), Baked Kibbeh Sahnieh, Fried Kibbeh, Vegan Tomato Kibbeh, Potato and Spinach Kibbeh, and Yogurt-Poached Kibbeh.
Photography is provided by Jason Varney. Many of the recipes are paired with beautiful full-page photos. Ingredients are listed in US Customary and Metric. The index is divided based on ingredient and the name of the recipe. Every recipe includes a detailed headnote on how Abood came across the dish, any history, and tips for serving or working with the ingredients. The Arabic name of the dish is occasionally provided and she also makes a note of the pronunciation.
This book is a great pick for those wanting to learn more about Lebanese cuisine. The recipes are well-adapted for the home cook with a nice mixture of easy to more complicated dishes. You will find an array of dishes incorporating fresh produce, herbs, and spices with seasonal choices. Most of the ingredients are readily available to the average American cook. A few are a little harder to source and require a trip to the Middle Eastern Food Market or a purchase online. There is a list at the end of the book of websites specializing in Lebanese ingredients.
I had heard of Fattoush many times while researching Lebanese cuisine, but didn’t actually try it until now. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I am now making this almost weekly. Fattoush is a Lebanese bread salad made from tossing toasted pita chips with various chopped vegetables and seasoning with a lemon sumac vinaigrette. It is a great use for any pita bread lying around that has gone stale. Abood also has a recipe for making your own pita chips by frying or baking (I used the baking method).
Do not dress the Fattoush until right before serving. Last thing you want is the pita chips soaking up that dressing and becoming soggy. The crisp texture of the chips is part of the charm.
Sumac is a spice made from the berries of the sumac bush and is common in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It is available in berry or ground form. Sumac has a lightly bitter, lemony taste and a deep brownish red hue. There are no good substitutes for the flavor. I have been able to find sumac in the specialty section of some International grocery stores and recently at Whole Foods. Watch the ingredient list and color of sumac. It should be a deep red. Bright red spices may have added coloring and some have added salt. It is also available of Amazon: Sumac.
I have been able to locate Pomegranate Molasses at Whole Foods along with International markets featuring Middle Eastern food and on Amazon for a higher price: Pomegranate Molasses. I haven’t personally tried it, but you can also make your own.
I also made the Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad (photo on the cover); Walnut Baklawa Diamonds; Eggplant with Lamb, Tomato, and Pine Nuts (Sheik al Mehsheh); and Cafe Blanc (Orange Blossom and Raw Honey Tisane).
The Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad was easy to toss together and a perfect choice for the abundant heirloom tomatoes available this time of year. A variety of sizes and colors of tomatoes are combined with mint and onion, then tossed with a lemon olive oil dressing. Simple, but delicious.
There are so many exciting desserts choices in Rose Water & Orange Blossoms- from rice pudding and pistachio bark to frozen yogurt and a few types of cookies. I made the Walnut Baklawa Diamonds. It is great for serving a crowd and we had a get-together that particular weekend. They were a huge hit! This particular recipe also comes together a bit more quickly. Only the top four layers of phyllo are individually buttered while the rest of the butter is poured over the top to seep down through the scored layers.
Chad and I have never been huge eggplant fans, but I keep trying recipes to learn of new ways to prepare it. Abood’s mother has a variation of Sheik al Mehsheh that involves layering instead of the usual stuffing of the eggplants with a lamb mixture and baking in tomato sauce. The eggplants are cut into slices and broiled until golden before being layered with seasoned ground meat, tomato sauce, and buttered toasted pine nuts. After a long bake in the oven, the mixture is topped with mozzarella cheese. The combination of broiling and baking caramelizes the eggplants and gives them a melt in your mouth texture. We both absolutely loved this dish. I served the layered eggplant with Lebanese Vermicelli Rice. This rice is lightly seasoned with cinnamon, butter, and broken up thin toasted noodles. It paired perfectly with the eggplant.
I tried the Cafe Blanc on a whim since I had all the (three!) ingredients on hand. Despite the name, there actually isn’t any coffee at all. Creamed raw honey and a splash of orange blossom water are mixed into boiling water. The honey added a bit of sweetness and accompanied the floral tones from the orange blossom water perfectly. Abood states it has become an obsession of hers and it looks like it has become one of mine as well. I ended up polishing off my remaining creamed honey over the past few days, as it is definitely a new favorite when my son and I have tea parties. I enjoyed the tisane hot, but you can also serve it cold over ice on hot days.
Looking for more Lebanese recipes?
Fattoush Salad Recipe
Excerpt from Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 small garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons crushed dried mint divided
- 2 teaspoons sumac divided
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 hearts of romaine chopped into 1 to 2 inch (2.5 to 5 cm) pieces
- 1 cup (150 g) cherry tomatoes quartered
- 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
- 2 radishes thinly sliced
- Pita chips
- 10 fresh mint leaves cut in chiffonade
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk the lemon, pomegranate molasses, garlic, salt, 1 teaspoon of the dried mint, 1 teaspoon of the sumac, and olive oil until it is thoroughly combined and emulsified.
- In a salad bowl, combine the romaine, tomatoes, onion, radishes, and pita chips. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette, tossing it to evenly coat everything. Dust the fattoush with the remaining sumac, dried mint, the fresh mint, and a few grinds of black pepper, and serve immediately.