Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant Recipes from the Heart of Lebanon
By John Gregory-Smith
2019, Kyle Books, 978-0-85783-577-2, $29.99 hb.
Reviewed by Tom Verde on January 15, 2020
The “sour tang” of Lebanese cooking, along with its “intricate use of herbs and spices,” such as sumac, za’atar and Lebanese seven-spice—a local, ubiquitous blend of seasonings—infuse this lively cookbook. For travel writer and cook John Gregory-Smith, the colorful and exotic beauty of Tripoli’s suq, as well as the kitchens of Lebanese friends, inspire this collection of recipes that highlights the dynamism and diversity of the country’s cuisine. In Beirut, Smith discovers the Ottoman-linked history of daoud basha—meatballs swimming in a heady, glistening sauce of cinnamon, allspice and pomegranate molasses. In the Bekaa Valley, he learns how to make sfiha, bite-size meat pies of ground lamb, tomatoes and allspice. In Batroun, between Beirut and Tripoli, he is treated to a Lebanese friend’s rendition of shrimp scampi, enhanced with chili and fresh mint. Gorgeous images of the food and the country add to the book’s allure.