Cookbook focuses on fragrant and tasty Lebanese cooking

For serious travelers, arm-chair travelers and everyone in between, we’re only a few days away from the annual A World A’Fair. It’s an international festival with lots of delicious food and wonderful entertainment, costumes and music from all over the world.

Just a few of the countries represented will be Peru, Poland, Korea, France, Scotland, Lebanon, India, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Philippines, Greece and Burundi. The complete list is very impressive.

The event is held at the Dayton Convention Center downtown, and if you don’t live in Dayton, it’s worth the trip.

I love sampling different international foods. Every new dish has the potential to inspire my cooking — even, perhaps, enhance my lifestyle. In celebration of A World A’Fair and its multicultural offerings, today I thought we’d check out some international cuisine. The traditional Lebanese diet is rich in vegetables, starches, fruits, fish, chicken and red meat in the form of lamb and goat. So is pickling — fresh vegetables brined in vinegar and seasoned with garlic and spices.

The book: “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen” by Maureen Abood; 256 pages, $40. Published by Running Press, 2015.

What you get: This collection of recipes uses fresh, fragrant and nutritious ingredients, such as colorful vegetables, pomegranates, pistachios, cinnamon, sesame seeds, lentils, chick peas and fava beans. We want to try Tahini Avocado (P.59), Grape Leaves with Lemon (P. 90), Roasted Leg of Lamb with Black Cherry-pomegranate Salsa (P. 115), Spinach Pies (P. 198) and Fig and Anise Jam with Walnuts (P. 216).

In her own words: “I hope that what you find here opens the door to a kitchen where you feel right at home with warmth and welcome, and don’t want to leave any time soon.” — Maureen Abood.

What we made:

MIXED VEGETABLE PICKLE (P. 212)

2 cups vinegar (apple cider, distilled white or white wine)

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon each of black peppercorns, mustard seeds, celery seeds and coriander seeds

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

2 pounds vegetables such as carrots, Persian or pickling cucumbers, small multi-colored peppers, cauliflower and green beans

4 garlic cloves, peeled

Few sprigs fresh dill

In a small saucepan, make a brine by bringing the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, celery seeds, coriander seeds and red pepper flakes (if using) to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, and then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Cut the carrots, cucumbers, peppers and cauliflower into 1-inch chunks, slicing the carrots and cucumbers on an angle. Save the tops of the peppers; they look lovely facing out here and there in the jar. Trim the green beans and leave them whole.

Place the cucumbers in a colander in the sink with 2 cups of ice cubes for 30 minutes; this enhances their crunch.

Pack 2 pint jars or 1 quart jar tightly with the vegetables, garlic cloves and dill. Ladle the brine into the jars to cover the vegetables, with 1/2-inch headspace. Cover the jars with their lids and refrigerate.

The pickles are ready to eat as soon as the next day, but gain flavor over time. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Our assessment: This is a very easy recipe, and the vegetables do gain flavor after a few days. The veggies work great as a crunchy snack or colorful relish. I’ve even had some for breakfast and plan on including a jar on picnics this summer.

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