Ingredient: Vanilla Beans

I’m a sucker for fragrant flavorings like rose water and orange blossom water. Vanilla is no less of a swoon for me, and I find its creamy, heady scent to be anything but bland. Why must we insist on calling the boring, the plain, vanilla? No more! Without vanilla, pastry would be lost, especially the…

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Ingredient: Wheat germ

I know what you’re thinking: really, wheat germ? What could she possibly be making that we’ll want to eat that includes wheat germ? She must have confused 2012 with 1972. Why not strawberries or some other gorgeous spring crop? Farmer’s market opens soon, very soon, and I promise that the voluptuous parade will be back…

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Ingredient: Sumac

The trifecta of Lebanese spices in my pantry includes za’atar, cinnamon, and sumac. Some versions of za’atar get citrus notes from sumac mixed with roasted thyme and sesame seeds. Sumac powder is made from pulverized dried sumac berries, and the spice has been ramping up Middle Eastern dishes, it seems, since the beginning of time.…

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Ingredient: Anise

There is no flavor that reminds me more of my mother than anise. She is the only person I know whose favorite candy is soft black licorice. Anything that even hints of anise makes her close her eyes and breathe deeply: Ellen Fata’s frosted anise Christmas cookies, the Lebanese fig jam we’re making this week.…

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Ingredient: Lemons

We are salivating over lemons this week not just because they naturally make our mouths water, and not just because they are the perfect shade of yellow to accompany us into spring and Easter, but also because lemons are one of the most essential flavors in Lebanese cuisine. What would my mother’s salata, or salad,…

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Ingredient: Lamb

It is true that for the most part, my family has replaced lamb with beef in many Lebanese dishes, especially kibbeh. But when special occasions bring us to the table together, it is the traditional Lebanese love of lamb that prevails. Easter at our house just wouldn’t be Easter without a symbolic, succulent platter of…

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Ingredient: Spinach

Lebanese cuisine makes it easy to eat your spinach (or your Swiss Chard, as the case may be). My fresh bag full of curly, gorgeous spinach came from Pond Hill Farm, where they grow their greens in a bright white greenhouse on their property all year long. My visit to the farm on Sunday was…

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Ingredient: Dates

It’s official. We are halfway through Lent, which for me means I’m that much closer to having my sweets again. I hope that the drastic fasting from refined sugar is going to gain me some heaven-points, but probably all of my crying about it is negating any positive effects I would have otherwise gained. Just…

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Ingredient: Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is not easy to find in northern Michigan in February, so when I called Glen’s Market after dialing up every other grocery store closer to home, I was excited to hear that they had a few bunches and would put one aside for me. Then when I picked it up, the brightly colored…

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