Meghli is the “newborn” sweet. Whenever a mother gives birth, meghli is the first thing to prepare at home to offer to family and guests. And since Christmas is about a newborn, too, meghli is served as a Christmas dessert in the mountains.
If the south has a lighter, sweeter version in mujadra safra, the north has it at the opposite end of the spectrum, dark and thick! The Northern Lebanese version of mujadara is made with red beans instead of lentils and coarse bulgur instead of rice.
Red Bean Stew is a Friday favorite; it can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature. It is best eaten with scallions, radishes, and a green salad.
Baa’leh (purslane) is a secret herb of Lebanese cuisine. Its “meaty” leaves, “iron-y” taste, and dark green color make it very special.
Batata harra means literally “hot potato” (as in spicy), as it is a fried potato (baked in some lighter versions!) that is seasoned with the coriander-garlic power couple and hot pepper, or red chile flakes. Batata harra is a must for a mezze table.
Batata jezzynyieh is the town of Jezzine’s take on batata harra, but made with cumin, the South’s spice.
Bemyieh, or okra, is a fine delicacy of Lebanese cuisine. The plant itself is a beautiful shrub with pretty blue flowers that will turn into edible pods holding the plant’s seeds.
In kibbeh country, Ehden and Zgharta, potato doesn’t have its kibbeh form (as elsewhere), but rather is prepared as melee’yieh, or mashed and seasoned with herbs. It’s similar to potato kibbeh, but without the bulgur.
Marshousheh means “the scattered” and is simply scattered bulgur over cooked cabbage. Easy! This recipe represents the epitome of mountain food: simple, rustic, filling, and easy to prepare.
The ultimate breakfast, a manousheh (plural manaiish) is a flatbread, a pizza-like pie, covered with za’atar (thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt) mixed with oil, and baked in the oven, or over a saj, which is a concave steel plaque with fire beneath it, and the flatbread cooks on the top. Its distinctive smell is typical of an early-morning mountain breakfast.