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Blog-inspired book features Lebanese-American family favorites

Maureen Abood opens her Lebanese-American family kitchen in the new book based on her blog.

“Rose Water and Orange Blossoms” shares favorite family food-centered stories and recipes, new and old. The first chapter, “Flavor Makers,” discusses homemade yogurt, garlic sauce and flower water syrup and other flavorful must-haves. At the back of the book, there are sample menus for Lebanese feasts with family, friends and a whole lotta lamb: Whipped Hummus with Minced Lamb and Sumac, Grilled Lamb Skewers with Fresh Mint Sauce and Roasted Leg of Lamb with Black Cherry-Pomegranate Salsa – just to name a few.

Photographs are mouthwatering and richly hued, but they are rather sparsely sprinkled throughout the 256-page hardback book.

Here are a couple of recipes from Abood’s blog, www.maureenabood.com, that can also be found in her book.

Apricot-Lime Fruit Leather

2 cups pitted, chopped apricots

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup agave nectar or granulated sugar

Line a heavy-duty sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place a rack in the middle position of the oven, and turn on the oven to the lowest setting, about 140 to 170 degrees.

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the fruit, lime juice, and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the fruit begins to break down, add the agave nectar or sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste the mixture after each addition to determine if it is sweet enough. If not, add more agave or sugar.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the fruit mixture for 10 minutes.

Puree the cooked fruit in a blender or food processor until smooth, about a minute. Pour the puree on the lined sheet pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula or back of a spoon, leaving an inch rim.

Bake for about 4 hours, until the leather is mostly dried but still slightly tacky to touch. To roll up the fruit, if using a Silpat, peel the entire sheet of leather off the Silpat and lay it on the same-sized sheet of waxed paper before cutting into strips and rolling up; if using parchment, do not remove the leather, and cut into strips then roll up. Eat the leather immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Hummus with Lamb and Sumac

For the hummus

1 cup pre-peeled chickpeas (they are dry and par-cooked; when cooked yield will be about 2 cups)

1 clove garlic, green stem removed, minced or grated on a fine grater

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup tahini (stirred to incorporate the oil before measuring)

1 cup chickpea cooking water (cooled) or cool water

For the lamb

1 pound lamb shoulder meat

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, center green sprout removed, minced or grated on a fine grater

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sumac

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup chopped parsley (cilantro and mint are also nice)

Olive oil for garnish

In a large pot, cover the chickpeas with water by several inches. Cover and bring to a boil, staying close by so it doesn’t boil over. Reduce the heat, remove the cover, and simmer on medium-low heat until the chickpeas are very tender to the bite, with a creamy quality, 90 minutes to two hours. Add more water if it gets low throughout the cooking time.

Drain the chickpeas and reserve the cooking liquid, putting it in the refrigerator or freezer to chill it down quickly (or add an ice cube). Rinse the chickpeas with cold water to cool them down.

In the bowl of a food processor, puree the chickpeas and garlic until a thick paste forms (the paste will ball up a bit). With the food processor running, slowly add the tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Then slowly add cooled chickpea cooking water or plain cool water until the hummus is very smooth and light, holding back on a little water and tasting the hummus as you go. Adjust seasoning, adding more salt and lemon if needed. Place the hummus in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Bring back to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

For the topping, chop the lamb shoulder into 1-inch pieces, cutting away excess fat and gristle. In a medium bowl, combine the lamb with the lemon juice, minced or grated garlic, salt and 1 tablespoon of sumac. Stir well and let the mixture rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat until the butter foams up. Drain the meat and pat it lightly with a paper towel to remove the juices. Add the meat to the pan and sauté over high heat until the meat is completely browned and caramelized, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with 1 tablespoon of sumac and cinnamon. Taste and adjust seasoning (I often add more sumac and salt).

Spoon the hummus onto six or so mezze plates, spreading the hummus into a circle with the back of the spoon. Top the center of each with a big spoonful of the lamb. Sprinkle with pine nuts, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with thin pita or flatbread.

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