Sunday Mezza

It all started with a bag of lentils. Yes, one can be inspired by hundreds of tiny, dried, green legumes if you've ever experienced them the way Ray makes them. Who is Ray? Ray is the proprietor of Ray's Lebanese, a local eatery I've been frequenting for the past 15 years. Halifax is blessed with a vibrant Lebanese community, who have shared the delights of their culinary traditions. Ray has been serving up the best falafel, tabouleh and pickled cabbage for over 30 years, and the only thing more consistent than his menu are the lunchtime lineups. 

So, bag of lentils in hand, I decided to create a meal that Ray would approve of: Lebanese chicken and potatoes, lentils and rice (mjaddara), and fattoush - a delightful bread salad. My first attempt at Middle Eastern cooking is rather safe, but simple. I only had trouble finding one ingredient - sumac. Sumac is a red berry that is ground into a powder and added to many dishes, particularly the fattoush. In my immediate area, no one carries this spice, but had I ventured downtown, I would have found it at a specialty store. Nonetheless...

The chicken and potatoes dish is so simple to prepare, and succulent. You literally throw chicken pieces in a pan, and add sliced yellow fleshed potatoes and onions in amongst the chicken. I recommend leaving the skin on to add flavour and retain moisture. A dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice and crushed garlic is poured over top, and then the mix is seasoned with salt and pepper. Let it bake on 425F, covered, for 30 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake for another 30 minutes at 475F. On another note here, I'd recommend using reasonably-sized chicken pieces. For some reason, the chicken breasts I had on hand are bizarrely humongous. I think they may have been part of a hormone experiment gone wrong. (We were slightly afraid to eat them.)

While the chicken is doing its thing, you can make the lentil rice. The lentils are washed, then boiled for 40 minutes. If you are feeding a group smaller than a military, use 1/2 cup or so, and boil in 1 1/2 cups water. Once boiled, mash them slightly. Then, add another cup of boiling water, and add washed white rice. Let this boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, I veered offto make these the way I think Ray does - although this is a guess. I chopped 5 slices of bacon, and cooked it with a minced onion. Once this was nice and brown, the whole thing is tossed into the rice. Bacon is the key my friends, and I believe this was pretty close to the version Ray makes. However, the original mjaddara recipe calls for onion browned in peanut oil, then added to the rice and lentils along with olive oil. Personally, I think bacon is the answer. (When is bacon not the answer?) 

Finally, I made the fattoush. Fattoush is my favourite salad ever. It is made with lettuce, (although purslane is often used) tomatoes, cucumber and peppers. I also added radishes, green onions and curly parsley, in addition to the key ingredient, toasted, crumbled pita bread. Well, I cheated a little, as I bought pita chips rather than toasting the bread myself. However, the effect was the same - a crunchy bite into the bright salad. The dressing is made with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and sumac. I must say, I missed the sumac, as the salad just didn't have the same bite. Don't get me wrong - I am looking forward to eating the leftovers - but sumac would have made it perfect. 

All in all, my Sunday mezza was a nice departure from my comfort zone. I don't think Ray has anything to worry about; although my dinner turned out great, I still will return for his version of fantastic.


  1. What's a girl gotta do to get an invite??? Looks fantastic - nice presentation.

  2. Sounds and looks awesome....Love ya..Mom

  3. Wow...looks delicious! Love ya...Mom


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