Kate and I finally broke in our kitchen and properly warmed our house today with a casual open-house brunch.
We threw together a handful of salads and other nibbles to spark the palate and cool everyone down in the muggy Beirut August air (our apartment has plenty of breezes flowing through it and a few hardworking fans, but no AC). These included Kate’s fabulous caramelized bananas, a uniquely Lebanese cocktail, and cold dishes of peaches, tomatoes, and apples. The former two will be detailed in forthcoming posts…this one will focus on mini-recipes for the latter three. These are simple, fresh, and ideal either as easy appetizers at a party or side dishes at brunch.
Apples, Tart & Honeyed
Chop 5 small or 3 large apples into bite-sized pieces.
Crumble 100-150 grams (3.5-5 oz.) of good feta cheese or Bulgarian sheep’s cheese (we used the latter and it was fabulous. Wait. Can I take a time out and just say how amazing the array of dairy products is in Lebanon? Incredible. What great yogurt and cheese everywhere!). You can also substitute goat cheese, but the saltiness of the crumbly Bulgarian stuff was a nice complement to the sweet apples.
Mix the cheese and apples and toss gently with a vinaigrette: quarter cup olive oil, tablespoon honey, tablespoon lemon juice, and a splash of red wine vinegar.
This is great as its own salad or as a topping for pancakes or crepes.
Lime-Chocolate Stone Fruits
My personal favorite: cut nectarines and/or peaches (we went for a mix of the two) in half lengthwise (tip for separating them and removing the pits = lots of twisting).
Mix together a sauce of half honey and half fresh lime juice. If they don’t want to mix, place the bowl near a warm stove to help melt down the honey.
Chop bite-sized pieces of dark chocolate. Arrange the fruits, flat sides up, on a dish, and fill the centers with bits of chocolate. Be sure to sprinkle liberally with chocolate shavings. Drizzle with the lime honey.
A Lebanese take on the classic caprese salad (tomato, basil, mozzarella): you simply layer fresh thick slices of tomato with delicious Lebanese halloum (a salty cheese with a mozzarella-like consistency, though a touch tarter and drier) and fresh leaves of marjoram (a major ingredient in zaatar, yumm). Then drizzle with some lovely local olive oil and voila!