Nelida Nassar 11.06.2013
While you are probably familiar with Claude Chahine Shehadi and Maria Rosario Lazzati best-selling book Lentils, it’s not likely that you have heard of their new one Chickpeas. If this is true, then I highly recommend you remedy the situation and get your hands on a copy of this forward-thinking cookbook. Chickpeas was just released at Tamyras in two separate editions, one in English another in French. It was also recognized by none other than the First Lady of France, Valerie Trierweiler, at the Beirut Book Fair who promised to present it to the Elysee Palace’s chef.
The two cooks and authors were dimly aware that their love for food that started modestly with teaching cooking workshops in 2007, in London, followed by the launching of a website blog libaliano will land those, two years later a meteoric success with two cookbooks Lentils and now Chickpeas.
More than just a charming look into days gone by and a way of two Mediterranean countries Lebanon and Italy past and present cooking, these books actually teach one a thing or two about how to cook and how to keep a sense of humor through it all. Leaf through Chickpeas you will be transported onto a chronicled culinary history, philosophers’ opinions and journey to various countries from Lebanon, Italy, Turkey, to North Africa. You will also wander through the Egyptian, Ottoman, Greek, Roman, Arabic kitchens and their particularities.
Each recipe is introduced and personalized with a short paragraph. I was most impressed by the Couscous, the Chickpea, The Pappardelle Tomato Soup from Tuscany, the Tuna Roll and the Asure introductions in which the narrators peppered their recipe with anecdotes and personal notes. Noteworthy are the clever combination of precooked items, hints and tips that meant one could spend lesser hours in the kitchen.
There are definitely moments of nostalgic cooking in this book that is divided in traditional and modern recipes including savory food and sweet desserts. The best examples of Claude and Maria’s cooking riff on familiar dishes or classic combinations handed down from their mothers and grandmothers. But there’s timelessness too, and even a bit of forward thinking as the authors wandered across the Mediterranean in search of new recipes, stumbles upon, resurrecting Gundelia Stew (thistle-like weed) or Chickpeas with fresh Tagliatelle where the pasta is fried to emulate bacon strips.
Claude and Maria are entertaining writers and keen observers. There’s a touch of history, culture and health benefits in their prose, a bit of no nonsense practicality, creativity and resourcefulness related to the Italian cucina povera and the Lebanon mountain’ kitchen. But this isn’t only a book of intriguing recipes that make you rethink the food you eat every day, it is the symbiotic complicity of two ladies and their delight in the sensual pleasure of food evident in the description of every dish.
Their palates are rooted in a love and respect for the cooking, food flavors and traditions of their respective countries Lebanon and Italy. But what launches their cookbooks into the stratosphere is its beautiful close-up photography, their deep-seated curiosity about the world and with each dish a question is answered by a taste experience, one that also involves your visual and olfactory senses.
11.09.2013: A Demo at Biel’s Beirut Cooking Festival 11.00 a.m.