Born and raised in Lebanon, and of Armenian descent, Maro spent hours as a young girl watching her mother cook for the family, and learning the techniques to make Lebanese dishes. When it comes to freshness, nothing compares with the fragrances of the Mediterranean preparations, and their flavors and aromas. Lebanese food is Mediterranean at its peak. It brings together the complexity of European cooking with the pleasures of Eastern fragrances. Many traditional Lebanese dishes are simple preparations based on grains, pulses, vegetables, and fruits, but the dish presentations are always artistic, and even the most basic dishes are beautifully garnished.
We joined Maro and her family for lunch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at her home in Santa Clarita where she prepared many traditional dishes and Mezzehs (appetizer or salad). Among other things, Maro showed us how to make the best Tabouleh, one of the most acclaimed Mediterranean recipes. It can be served as a salad with the entrée, or it can be placed next to a bowl of mixed nuts and shared on social occasions before dinner accompanied with Pita bread. Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the recipe. Tabouleh requires shopping for the freshest vegetables, patience in putting everything together, and good taste to balance all the ingredients perfectly.
Bolghur (a.k.a. bulghur or bulgur or bulgar or burghul), one of the key components, is made by cleaning, parboiling, and drying wheat. The grains are then ground (cracked) into different sizes, generally fine, medium, and coarse. In contrast to cracked wheat, bolghur is ready for steaming or boiling with minimal cooking. After soaking in water or broth, bolghur can be mixed with other ingredients without further cooking. Bolghur has a more distinctive nutty taste than simple cracked wheat.