Breadonbutter Guests, Guest Writers and Interviews, Recipes, The Veggie Diaries 0 comments on The Veggie Diaries – Happiness with a Pinch of Nostalgia

The Veggie Diaries – Happiness with a Pinch of Nostalgia

A few weeks ago, I met Lea. She’s a Nephrology Fellow at the Harvard Medical School, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Harvard’s Medical school’s second largest teaching affiliate) and Mass General Hospital in Boston.

Over lunch by the sea, picking really delicious mezzes directly from the serving plate, we got to discuss many things about life. But what we talked about the most was, of course, say it with me, food. Lea is a vegetarian and prepares delicious meals that don’t have to include meat, chicken or any kind of animal. From now on, she will be sharing her stories and recipes right here on Breadonbutter in a new series called “The Veggie Diaries”. So whether you’re sitting behind your screen in Lebanon or away from home in another country, or even if you’re not lebanese and want to try some easy and healthy vegetarian dishes, read on for Lea’s first log.

Lea - The Veggie Diaries

If you had to think about this one question you are asked the most in life, you would come up with “What’s your name?” or “What do you do?”. For me however, it’s: “What’s your accent? Where are you from??”

Being a Lebanese woman, with Russian descents and some Europeans origins, I apparently have an accent in all the languages I speak (I sound French when speaking Arabic and English, and I sound Lebanese when speaking French!). My patients feel it’s their hospital’s admission goal to figure out where I am from.

After spending an amazing vacation in Beirut and meeting interesting and inspirational people, I came back to Boston, happy but nostalgic. Within ten days, I had cooked Lebanese food to my American friends on multiple occasions… and I loved it! Being in Beirut, however, and having my 84-year old grandmother attempt to feed me chicken given that I am vegetarian- and for her, vegetarians = no meat but yes for chicken!- , reminded me how challenging adopting a meat-free diet could be in Lebanon. It shouldn’t though! Lebanese cuisine contains more vegetarian options that most of the world’s cuisines. Every meal has it vegetarian options, from breakfasts to lunch and dinner, the choices are endless!

I decided to jump into everyone’s favorite Lebanese morning pizza: mankoucheh. In the process, you can see my not-so-creative gene acting up in the I Cedar L! From zaatar brought from Beirut to simple shredded mozzarella for the cheese mankoucheh, the result was astonishingly good!

i cedar leb


– Store-bought pizza dough (can find it in wheat for a calorie-restricted mankoucheh)

– Zaatar

– Shredded Mozzarella cheese

– Olive oil

How to make it:

Thread the dough on a lightly oiled or floured surface; in a small plate, mix the zaatar with enough oil to get the desired consistency. Use a bowl to cut small and easy-to-store mankoucheh. Then spread some of the zaatar mix onto the dough to cover most of it, leaving ½ to 1 inch rim. Substitute mozzarella cheese for zaatar, or for the famous cocktail mankoucheh, a mix of zaatar and cheese! Pack few in aluminum foil and freeze them; surprise your friends on a Sunday morning for brunch!

In the same sitting, I also dived into another Lebanese dish, my childhood favorite: burghul. My mother used to make it with meat, but the taste is the same (or in my opinion, even better) without it. The dish is still very health conscious, as bulgur wheat has a high content of fiber and about 17 grams of protein in one cup, about three times the protein content in an egg! Add any vegetable you want, I pick zucchini (my personal best!) and tomatoes. Very easy to make and even better to taste! I added some fat-free plain yogurt (as a Laban replacement), and the result was nothing less than delicious!


– 2 cups of uncooked burgul

– 3-4 medium-sized zucchini, diced

– 5 small tomatoes, diced

– One yellow onion, chopped

– 1 tbs olive oil or vegetable spray oil

– 2-3 tbs of tomato paste

– Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

How to make it:

Bring a pot of water to boil and add the burgul; let it boil for another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, sauté the onions till golden brown, add the zucchini till tender (remove from heat if preferred crispier). Finally, add the tomatoes at the end (you don’t want to end up with very sloppy tomatoes!). Once the bulgur is cooked, drain and bring back to pot. Add the vegetables and the tomato paste on low fire for an additional ten minutes. Cinnamon, added at the end, brings an interesting finale to this easy and healthy meal!



Breadonbutter Guests, Guest Chefs, Recipes 0 comments on The Pasta Series: Jean’s Fresh and Exquisite Seafood Spaghetti

The Pasta Series: Jean’s Fresh and Exquisite Seafood Spaghetti

Guest Chef Jean Fares After quite some time, we are proud to welcome back our beloved Guest Chef Jean Fares! This time, he outdid himself with this delicious and all-fresh seafood pasta. He bought fresh calamari, fresh herbs, fresh vegetables and most importantly shrimps that were still alive (yes, that’s how fresh it was!) to make this absolutely phenomenal spaghetti dish that I keep on longing for ever since. Believe me, try to make it and you’ll definitely adopt it.

Jean’s birthday is tomorrow so I’ll be baking him a nice and yummy cake for the occasion (the one I had baked here).

Here’s what you’ll need:


– Fresh Shrimps. Keep the heads and shells aside to make the juice

– Fresh Calamari

– Coriander leaves

– 3 to 4 small tomatoes (choose them very red), chopped

– White wine

– Spaghetti

– Salt and Pepper

– 1 Onion (diced)

– 3 cloves of Garlic (diced)

How to make it:

1) Boil your spaghetti al dente and drain

2) Chop the onions, the garlic and chili pepper (If you want to spice it up)


2) In a wok or pan, heat a bit of olive oil and cook the onions, garlic and pepper, then add the shrimp heads, white wine and chopped tomatoes. Let it simmer and reduce


4) On a grill, cook the calamari


5) Mix them all when they’re done, top it all with some fresh coriander leaves and experience an explosion of flavors 🙂








Travel 1 comment on A Day in Rome

A Day in Rome

Rome is one of my favorite cities and for those of you who still haven’t been there, I seriously tell you to pack your bags this summer and head to Italy. You won’t regret it for a minute.

My sister Mia, the one who’s on the perfect cookie quest (read here for more details), lives in London. For her Easter holiday, she met my mom in Rome and they had the real dolce vita for a few days. I asked her to send me the highlights of her trip so that I could provide you with a taste of this great city. Here’s what one day in Rome could be like.

1. Start your day with a coffee and brioche at “Sant’Eustachio il caffe” ( – best “caffe” in Rome. Have a quick breakfast at the bar.

2. Visit the church of San Luigi dei Francesi ( which is just a few footsteps away from the cafe. It’s one of the few churches where you can see some of Caravaggio’s paintings for free and the church itself is beautiful.

San Luigi dei Francesi 2

3. Walk to Piazza Navona (a few minutes’ walk from the church). It’s one of the best “piazzas” in Rome. There, you can find the best gelato place. My advice would be Orange and Nutellone gelato flavors.

4. At lunchtime, head to Vicolo 88 on Via dell’Orso 88 for a nice lunch at one of my good friend Giovanni De Luca’s restaurants. (

viccolo 3 viccolo 1

5. After lunch, head to Via del Corso for a bit of shopping and also visit the spanish steps and fontana di trevi close to there. Then, if you want, catch the andy Warhol Exhibition which is a fascinating summary of the artist’s life and his work. (

Spanish Steps

6. Later in the afternoon, go to Campo dei Fiori for a quick dash around the cutest market and then cross the bridge to Trastevere for a nice aperitivo (make sure you order a nice and fresh “Spritz”) followed by dinner in one of the charming trattorias around there.

Campo dei fiori


This is just a preview of all the things you can do in Rome. There are so many other beautiful places there to see and restaurants to eat in. I’ll make sure to share everything if I go there this year.

Meanwhile, all you have to do is dream 😉




Breadonbutter Guests, Guest Chefs, Recipes 2 comments on Simit: The Middle Eastern Pretzel

Simit: The Middle Eastern Pretzel

The same way we have Arabic bread, French Baguette, English toast or any type of bread on our tables for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the Turks have Simit. It looks like a pretzel or kaak, tastes like a bagel or any of the above types combined, and it goes with everything. You can also give it any style you’d like. You can cut it in half and fill it with toppings of your choice or have it with any dish.

Until recently, I never thought it could be easily made at home. But luckily, our beloved guest chef Jean Fares succeeded!

So here’s what you’ll need:

– 1 pinch of Sugar

– 3 teaspoons of Dried Yeast

– 3.5 cups of All-Purpose Flour

– 1.5 teaspoons of Sea Salt

– 2/3 a cup pf Pekmez (also known as Grape Molasses)

– 1.5 cups of Sesame Seeds (not roasted)

How to make them:

1) In a small bowl, combine sugar and 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, then add the yeast on top. Let it rest for about 5 to 7 minutes or until it looks like foam (see picture below). Once it’s foamy, add 1.25 cups of lukewarm water on top

yeast IMG_7897

2) In a bigger bowll, mix the flour and salt and top them with the yeast mixture above

3) Mix until you get a rough dough then knead it on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball and coat it with a bit of olive oil. Then, cover it well and place it in a warm place for about an hour or until it has doubled in size

IMG_7903 IMG_7919

4) When the dough has doubled, take it out of the bowl and flatten in on a surface, then divide it into 6 even pieces (also rolled into balls)


5) Work to make each ball into a large rope, then tie the two ends together and turn them on themselves like you would do with a real rope then join the 2 ends together to make a circle (pictures below)

IMG_7928 IMG_7929

6) In another bowl, mix the pekmez with a 1/3 cup of water (normal temperature)

7) Dip each circle into the pekmez and water mixture, drain then roll them in a plate full of sesame seeds



8) Place them all on a baking sheet and in the oven (preheated at 200 degrees celsius) for about 15 minutes or until golden and cooked (insert toothpick to check)

IMG_7939 IMG_7940 IMG_7951

Enjoy while they’re still hot and place the leftovers in the fridge! 🙂




Recipes 0 comments on Back to School

Back to School

Come September, we all feel the need to reorganize our lives after a hectic summer. Old habits and routines start again. No matter how old we are, this feeling of being back to school, university, starting a new job never leaves us. Getting up early, wearing nice clothes that you picked out the night before, organizing your day and meals. All that. The thing is, the older you grow, the more you appreciate that feeling, because that’s when you realize that life is full of opportunities, choices, new beginnings and endless possibilities. 
Today is that day for me. Vacations are over, and it’s a new beginning. For that day, I’ve decided to share a recipe that inspires routine, healthiness and getting back home after a day at work or school.
For the “wara’ aarich bi lahme”, i.e. Stuffed Wine leaves, you will need (for 3 to 4 persons):
– 500 g of minced meat
– 250 ml of pomi (tomato sauce)
– 2 tomatoes
– Wine leaves (approximately 30)
– The juice of 1 lemon
– Fresh Parsley
– Rice
– Pepper
– Grouned cinnamon
– 1 onion
– 4 lamb chops

1) In a bowl, wash the rice with water

2) Dice the tomatoes, the onion and the parsley and add them to a second bowl

For spicy lovers, you can add diced green chili

3) Add the rice on top along with pepper, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of grounded cinnamon

4) Mix and add the lemon juice on top

5) Add the minced meat and mix

6) Now roll the stuffed wine leaves following the below steps

Put a tablespoon of the mix in the middle of the wine leaf
Fold the sides
Roll the bottom

Remove the excess liquid by pressing on the stuffed leaf
7) In a casserole, add 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce and start adding the wine leaves when you finish rolling them, one by one
You can also stuff tomatoes – like the Greeks do (following the steps below)

Dig a hole in the tomato
Stuff it with the rice mixture
And add it to the casserole

8) Add the lamb chops to the casserole

9) Cover with 5 tablespoons of tomato sauce

10) Cover everything with a plate so that they stay rolled during cooking

11) Add enough water to cover all the stuffed leaves and bring it to the boil, then lower the fire and let it simmer for 40 minutes

12) To check if it’s done, what I did was taste one to see if the rice and meat were cooked 🙂 They should also turn to this color

It was indeed delicious.

Recipes 0 comments on Tzatziki


I am always proud to tell people about my mixed nationalities. My mom is Greek and my dad is Lebanese. I am a mix of the two most “Mediterranean” cultures ever known (alongside the Italians). I’m using the word “Mediterranean” as an adjective, meaning chaotic, loud, in love with food, olive oil, the sun and the sea, always gathering for special occasions (varying from all family members’ birthdays -including the dog’s- to Christmas, Easter, and family members coming back from abroad) and laughing the night away.  
When I went to the UK in 2008 to study for my Masters degree, I met a lot of Greek people, “real” ones. Having always lived in Lebanon, the only information I had about Greek culture came from my grandparents and their stories. But I had always wanted to meet THE Greeks. I did, and I spent a lot of time in Greece visiting them. Of course, I seized the opportunity to learn the “real” tzatziki, how Greek mothers make it. Here it is.
What you’ll need:
– 5 to 6 Cucumbers
– Yogurt (i.e. ‘Laban’ for the Lebanese or Greek yogurt for all countries where you can find it)
– 5 Garlic cloves
– Olive oil
– Salt and Pepper
– A bowl
1) Peel the cucumbers’ skin, and throw it away. Then, continue peeling and add them all to the bowl

2) Crush the garlic cloves and add them on top of the cucumbers

3) Add salt and pepper

4) Add the yogurt on top of everything and mix

5) Add as much olive oil as you’d like and mix

And Voila! You can have it alone or with absolutely everything.

Travel 0 comments on World Food: Italy

World Food: Italy

Whenever I hear Italy, I hear happiness, joy and positivity. The first time I visited the country was with my parents when I was 14. It was one of those trips that you never forget. We did the whole tour. Rome, Venice, Florence, Cascia, Assisi, and Rimini. I loved it so much that I made a point back then to throw that quarter in the Fontana di Trevi to come back. And I did go back, 6 times to be exact. And I’m planning to go again.

I always say the culture of a country is reflected in its food and the way its people eat. Here are a few memorable ones that reflect the Italianos.

The “Ciccolato i Vino” shots in Trastevere, Rome – i.e. Wine in a chocolate shot topped with creme chantilly, that is eaten all at once

The most cheerful and cutest cappuccino in Milan that my sister (who lived there for a year) and I used to have every morning before starting our day. This made us happy everyday 🙂

Charcuterie, Cheese and Wine in Florence

Gelato – the best flavors were Orange and NUTELLONE, in Piazza Navona, Rome
The Porchetta sandwich, while driving to “Rocca di Papa” (The Pope’s Rock),  a small town in the province of Rome

Sadly, I have no good picture of the “Spaghetti al Vongole” and “Carbonara” I had in Rome, but I can tell you they’re unforgettable. However, I got a nice “carbonara” recipe from an Italian lady in Milan that I will be cooking soon.

The good food you have in Italy is countless and I will soon be back from there with new dishes! 

Recipes, Travel 0 comments on World Food: Greece

World Food: Greece

If you’re heading to Greek Islands this summer, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of those holidays that bring you back refreshed, with that cloud in your mind gone, ready to face reality again. The transparent sea, the taverns, the Greek people’s happy spirit, the sound of scooters, the sound of a ferry full of people arriving on the island, will stay with you forever.

If you’re in Greece long enough, you’ll quickly get used to 2 things: Cafe Frappe, and Souvlaki. Sometimes together, sometimes 3 to 4 times a day. It’s an addiction.
I got so used to the cafe frappe that I bought a frappe machine (that can be found anywhere, not just in Greece) and I now do it at home. Here’s how:
– In a glass, add 1 teaspoon of coffee beans (Nescafe works) and 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar (depending  on how sugary you want it)
– Add just enough water to cover them
– Beat with the frappe machine
– Add fresh milk on top
– Add crushed ice
– Add a bit of water
– Enjoy a fresh coffee!
The souvlaki however, can be done at home but will never turn out the same as the streets of Greece. Adding the fact that it’s all fat, I suggest you just have it on vacation. But just in case you wish to do it at home, here are all the ingredients of the perfect Souvlaki that you just have to mix together:
– Greek pita bread
– Red onions
– Tomatoes
– Grilled pork meat (that you can replace with chicken or beef)
– Tzatziki (that I will be teaching you to make soon) – it’s basically seasoned yogurt and cucumbers
– And last but not least, fries

Parties & Happenings, Travel 1 comment on A Food Story

A Food Story

Summer in Lebanon cannot go by without at least one weekend in the Bekaa, the country’s most important farming and agricultural region. Wheat, corn, cotton, and vegetables are produced there and it also hosts a big number of vineyards and orchards mainly located around Zahle. 
On our way there last Saturday, we took the normal route, and stopped by our usual spots (to eat of course) before getting to Tawlet Ammiq, an eco-friendly Lebanese restaurant. 
Here’s what was on the menu:

Stop for ‘Labneh Makbousse’ at Hedwen (Chtaura)
You can also buy jam and olive oil (Hedwen)
The ‘Kaak bi Halib’ (Hedwen)

Araq at Tawlet Ammiq
Lots of local fruits
The famous “janereg” – the unexplained Lebanese fruit of the season – with a 961 beer before lunch
Boiled artichokes dipped in olive oil, lemon and garlic
“Batata Harra” i.e. fried potato cubes with coriander, chili powder and garlic
Halloumi cheese and strawberry jam
Rice, “Chich Barak” and “Mouloukhieh” – that I will be cooking and sharing soon
Grilled tomatoes, onions and broccoli skewers
Fresh lemonade
Fresh vine leaves to eat everything with
More fruits
Stuffed vine leaves in oil
Such a Saturday really makes you love your country.
Recipes 2 comments on Istanbul Culinary Explosion – Part 2 – The Healthy and Fast Food

Istanbul Culinary Explosion – Part 2 – The Healthy and Fast Food

In my last post, I promised you a recipe I learnt when in Istanbul two weekends ago. It is actually the easiest recipe one could ask for when there’s no time to cook but something healthy has to be eaten. I tried it last night and it turned out to be delicious!
The secret ingredient was of course something I brought back with me – a delicious mix of spices found at the Grand Bazaar in the spice market at a place called Saray (it is said to be the best and the most honest of all).
If you have the mix of spices, you will only need:

– A cup of rice
– 2.5 cups of water
– Salt and Pepper
– A cup of the spice mix. 
For those of you who do not have the spice mix:
– You can pick your choice of vegetable mix (Below are my favorites)
   – Green onions cut in small pieces
   – Diced carrots
   – Corn
   – Diced tomatoes
   – Ginger for crazy ginger lovers
– A cup of rice
– 2.5 cups of water
– Salt and Pepper
How to cook it:
1) Bring 2.5 to 3 cups of water to the boil
2) Once the water is boiled, throw in the spice mix/vegetables

3) Followed by the rice

4) Mix well 

5) Cover and let it simmers (on low fire) for 10 to 11 minutes

 6) Until it looks like that (i.e. the rice has absorbed all of the water and is therefore cooked)

And there you have it! So easy, so healthy and so yummy!