Sunday breakfast is that moment of the week where time passes unhurriedly. The slow rhythm of the city outside and the yearning to spend some quality time at home in our pajamas make for the ideal setting, to what I call the feast. While the boys are busy doing boys stuff, I head to the kitchen. I love breakfast, especially on Sundays. Sitting all together for a meal and talking, while enjoying a good Lebanese breakfast as the smell of fresh brewed coffee fills the house with its aroma, is one of my little pleasures in life.
A Lebanese breakfast would not be complete without our varied range of cheese. We love our cheese in Lebanon and unlike the European ones; the cheese that is produced here is light in texture and in taste. Ackawi, Naboulsi (originally from Nablos, hence the name), Feta, Kashkaval, Bulgarian, Shanklish, Double Crème, Arishe, Majdoule, Labne balls, and many more, are all Lebanese cheese that are produced here.
Preparing a Lebanese breakfast is not only a feast for the body but for the eyes too. A small plate of Labne with virgin olive oil from the south gracefully drizzled on it. Another small plate of fresh red tomatoes cut in moon shapes with mint leaves and olives rub shoulders as their tastes fuses on each other. Then comes the bread, mar’ou2, which I get from the Souk el Tayeb that I toast a little on the stove to make it a bit crispy and hot. Next to them in a little floral bowl sits a small plate of za’atar that I add some salt and some dried oregano to it. Beid 3youn (sunny side up) fried in a fokhara (clay pots) with a sprinkle of sumac is also another lovely dish added on the table. Among the array of small dishes, Arishe though is by far my favorite cheese, and unlike most Lebanese I don’t eat it with honey. I get our Arishe from Mar Cha’aya monastery in Broumana. Mar Cha’aya Monastery has a little farm and they grow their own fruits and vegetables. In summer I try to make it early on Saturdays so I can get my list for the week.
Arishe, for me, is a pure delight I prepare it in a bowl, drizzle olive oil on it, and sprinkle a little dash of salt from Enfeh with some zaatar and Sumac. Then I add a pinch of dried basil, that I also get from Mar Cha’ya monastery, and finely top it off with fresh herbs from our little balcony: mint, basil, and chives. It’s the star dish on our breakfast table. It tastes and smells like the milk it is made from. This rich, fresh cheese is slightly grainy but smoother than cottage cheese. It’s white, moist and has a slightly sweet flavor. Of course, A’rishe, like Labne, technically isn’t a cheese at all but a “dairy product” because neither starter nor rennet is used in the process of making it.
Just looking at a Lebanese breakfast table is a pure delight. Not only is it one of the healthiest, but it’s all pure products from our land that haven’t been tampered with much. It’s fresh, healthy, smells delicious, and is a lovely rainbow of display of how rich our earth is. Sahtein!
Picture by Zain Medlej