Monday, January 2, 2017


It started with an idea that a small bistro could offer what many locals were searching for, what my family and I could not find in our local eateries- a place free of the most prevalent allergens, serving clean, fresh food that could give me an outlet to share my recipes and other time-tested family treasures.

Our first year at Fresh Levant Bistro was full of memorable highs and lows, milestones and so many fulfilling moments.  I couldn't have started this project without the support of my family, and couldn't have sustained it without your support, the local community that welcomed us with open arms, our regular guests who quickly became part of the family,  and those of you who came from near and far to share a meal with us.

I am warm and fuzzy inside with gratitude for all your words of encouragement, your advice, your patience, your generosity, and your feedback which helps us improve everyday.  I have loved ready your emails and your loving notes left on our napkins and menus. You have shared with us your weddings, your baby showers, and your newborns and we love it all.

And mostly nothing could have been accomplished without so much support and hard work from my wonderful crew in the kitchen and the dining room, whose hard work and diligence makes us better today than yesterday.

I am looking forward to the days ahead, bursting with exciting ideas and new initiatives.  Our promise is to continue improving and growing, always keeping our commitment for a nutritious offering free of all things artificially, chemically or biologically manipulated foods, and I am excited to see you all in the days to come.

I just want to say a big THANK YOU! and I look forward to another year of memories in the making.


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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Children of the Earth - We have failed you!

This, by no means, is a rant - but the summation of my observations from a detached perspective.
As a foodie, I see everything from that perspective.  Food is really a window through which you can understand behavior, society, culture, etc.  And I am always delighted to read other foodie blogs who are committed to dishing out the best of their creativity, through scrumptious and healthful food - real food.  We need more of you!

As I sit here and remember the thoughts that woke me up in the middle of the night, I realize that I probably should have made my way to a paper and pen.

For a very long time, I've been baffled by the idea of what people equate with food. Packages that advertise the use of "Real Cheese" on their wrappers as if there is anything other than. As adults, we are free to choose, we are capable of inquiring about, and we ought to understand what truly defines food.  We have been entrusted this monumental task by the Children of the Earth. Sifting through, and preparing healthful meals for them is a great undertaking.  However, we delegated that monumental task to corporations and conglomerates.  We have allowed them to define for us, to choose for us and to feed us.  It wasn't even a power struggle!   Our laziness and lack of interest, our disconnectedness from what matters, have moved us away from who we are and what our job here really is!

We have failed the children.  We, the adults, have failed at nurturing them, feeding them, and providing them with the tools needed to become a better generation than the latter.  We have taught them that food comes in packages.  We have taught them that food is neon colored - that meals come with toys and out of individual bags.  We have littered their little bodies with additives, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, processed junk, contaminated water, binding agents, toxic ingredients, chemicals and prescriptions, etc.  And it all boils down to one reason: Time.  We are too busy catching up with this celebrity and that reality, with jobs around the clock to afford stuff and houses that we were told were iconic of a successful life, to be walking charades disconnected from ourselves, to ignore our true yearning for community, harmony, and belonging.  In our disorientation, we have lost our connectedness to the light inside of all of us.

Children of the Earth, we are sorry.  We have let our guard down.  We have allowed authorities and entities outside ourselves to control us, to betray us and cash in on our weakness.  We have failed you in all parts of the world where you are dying of hunger, of hatred, of prejudice, of maladies, of overmedication, of abuse.  We have failed to see you as the vibrant little beings that you are, coming here with all the wisdom you need to show us a better way.  We have over-medicated you, we have ignored you and we have discarded you as nuisances in our lives.  We are over-scheduling you and stressing your little bodies, we are molesting you as if you are made of plastic,  we are hurting you inside and out.  And for all of that, We Are Sorry!

Don't give up on us though, don't give up on our humanity.  It's inside, I promise.  It will burst out of us soon into a kaleidoscope of Love and commitment for a beautiful tomorrow.

Forgive us for giving you these experiences, for scarring your souls in this way.  You are blazing the trails Dear Ones and you WILL change this Earth.  Thank you for guiding us through this nightmare, Dawn is fast approaching.

Happy Holidays,

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Roasted Squash Chestnut Soup

Those four little butternut squash had been sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter for two months.  I inspect them often to see if they're ready. The farmer said they weren't ready to eat when I bought them and had suggested I let them ripen for a while. I don't know about them, but today I was ready for roasting things, for throwing stuff in a big pot.  I wanted soup!

So here it is, a delicious combination of roasted chestnuts, squash and onion with warming spices and zesty tomato paste.  If you have any room for soup on your Thanksgiving menu, this one will spice up your table nicely.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Roasted Squash Chestnut Soup

8 cups Chicken stock (see recipe below)
3 lbs Butternut Squash, peeled, and roasted (substitute with your favorite)
8 chestnuts, roasted and peeled
1 onion, sliced and roasted
3 tbsp tomato paste ( I used homemade paste)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp sea salt ( I use Real Salt brand, which is a mild flavored salt) - adjust up to your liking
1 tsp dried marjoram
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground fennel, or crushed if you have seeds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder

Peel butternut squash, discard seeds and slice.  Place slices on a baking tray, cover and roast in a 400˚F for 20-30 minutes or until soft to touch.  Add the chestnuts in the oven at the same time. Also peel and slice the onion and place on a small tray in the same oven too until soft with a little color.
In a heavy duty blender, place 4 cups of stock with the roasted squash, and blend until pureed and smooth.  Pour in a large pot.  Pour the rest of the stock (4 cups) with the chestnuts and the onions in the blender and also blend until pureed and smooth.  Pour over the pureed squash.  Add the other ingredients into the pot and stir well.  Bring the soup to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes, taste and adjust salt/pepper to your preference.  

Chicken Stock

10 cups filtered water
Roasted chicken bones (one chicken worth)
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried lemon (found at Indian or Mediterranean stores)
4 lemon verbena leaves, dried (substitute with a few sprigs of parsley)
8-10 peppercorns, whole
2 inch fresh ginger, sliced

Bring water to a boil, cover and reduce heat so liquid can slowly simmer for at least an hour and a half.  Turn off heat and leave covered to cool down for 20 minutes.  Strain liquid, discard bones and aromatics and reserve the stock. This can be made in advance.  The stock will last in the fridge for 4 days. 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Pot Meals are the best

Happy Spring to you.  I'm happy to be here sharing another one of my recipes.  It's been a busy couple of months working on a cookbook fundraising project for my kids' school.  I took on the food photography for the book and I was a blast!  I fell in love with so many of the pictures.

One of the my favorite foods are beans.  I have not had any in three years since they're still on the forbidden list due my leaky gut issue.  But I recently found out that I can have pole beans and Romano beans.  A favorite dish for hot days is Romano beans in tomato sauce which I will share later with you.  This recipe today is simple, filling, and it's in one pot.  You can't beat a one pot meal!

Pole Beans and Brown Rice with Beef Shanks

3 beef shanks, preferably grass-fed (other cuts work too )
1 1/2 lbs Pole beans, cleaned and snipped in half or thirds 
2 cups brown basmati rice, cleaned 
1 large can organic tomato sauce 
4 cups water (for stock), plus 4 more (for rice and beans) 
1 yellow or white onion, diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 cinnamon stick 
3 cardamom pods, cracked 
1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes (add more to your liking) 
2+ tsp sea salt  
Freshly cracked pepper to taste 
Olive oil for sautéing about 3 tbsp. 
Juice of one lemon to finish
Dried Mint to Finish 

In a heavy bottom large pot, drizzle the olive oil and place over medium heat.  Add the beef shanks and sauté on both sides for about five minutes each side.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add tomato sauce, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and water.  Cover pot and bring to a simmer for about one hour or until the shanks are tender.  If you use a different cut, simmer time may change.   
Remove shanks from pot and place in a bowl.  Let cool a little, then carefully pick the meat and set aside, and discard the bone and membrane. To the pot, add the pole beans, rice, pepper flakes, pepper, salt and additional water.  Cover and bring to a gentle boil.  Stir occasionally and simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until rice is done.  After 30 minutes add the cleaned shanks. Taste rice to check for doneness, add water 1/2 cup at a time if needed.  Adjust salt if needed and finish with lemon juice and dried mint.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tamarind-Marinated Hanger Steak and Salad

If you've never bought a hanger steak before, you should.  Last weekend we had a glimpse of Spring with a fantastic Saturday weather than begged for grilling.  I was chatting with the butcher about different cuts and decided to throw in a hanger steak in the mix.  All I can say is 1) Yummy, I was surprised with its tenderness and bold flavor, and 2) I can't keep a secret!

These come one to a cow, and back in the days, used to be what the butcher took home, also called Butcher's steak.  It's lean, flavorful, and works great for marinades.  The steak weighs between 1-2lbs, and has a thick inedible membrane that runs in the middle of it, which you have to cut out.

I think it's a great cut for Shawerma (Lebanese gyros), Fajitas, Stir-fry, etc. A definite addition in our family kitchen.

Kale and Avocado Salad

1 small bag of organic baby kale, washed
2 organic avocados, sliced
1 organic tomato, sliced
3-4 Armenian cucumbers, sliced
2 organic green onions, sliced

Mint Lemon Dressing

1/4 cup freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil ( I use Seifan, a Lebanese olive oil)
1/2 tsp organic dried mint, finely ground 
1/2 tsp + pinch sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until well blended, or place in a glass jar, close lid and shake like mad.  You can keep the leftover in the fridge for one week.

Toss your salad with the dressing, grill your steak to desired temperature, let rest for a few minutes while you're working the salad, then slice and serve.

Tamarind marinade

1/2 onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced/grated
2 tsp tamarind paste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp vinegar
5 or 6 mastic pearls, powdered*
1 tsp raw honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice, ground
1/2 tsp cracked pepper flakes 
2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
One grass-fed Hanger Steak

Grate the onion and garlic on a microplane or pulse them in a food processor until paste.  In a bowl, mix all ingredients well to form a paste. If too thick, add a splash of water.  Place your cleaned hanger steak in and rub marinade well all over.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  You can prep this the night before, the meat will be so much more flavorful.

* To grind mastic, freeze pearls briefly, then remove and pound gently in a mortar.  The reason for freezing them is because they tend to be sticky and won't grind easily. 
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