Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Cooking with Inspiration: Lebanese Cuisine” by Ilham Saad, who owned Byblos, one of Wichita’s most popular Lebanese restaurants, from 1989-2017. The book, which includes 124 recipes, can be ordered at cookingwithinspiration.com and is also available in some local stores.
By Ilham Saad
I was born in the village of Hadath in Beirut, Lebanon. My father was a tailor and my mother was a homemaker. My mother never let us into the kitchen while she was cooking, but I remembered the spices she used and her technique in the kitchen.
In 1979, I met my husband, Kamal Saad, in Beirut. We settled in Wichita and raised five beautiful, smart daughters. After several years Kamal’s health began to affect him to the point that he was no longer able to work. My husband asked me what I would like to do. Thinking about what I enjoyed was easy. I love to be with people and more than that, I love cooking for them.
We opened Byblos Deli and Catering, which later became Byblos Restaurant. My husband would talk to customers about the politics going on and would tell them the best way to eat hummus and tabouli. Our customers became our friends and our strongest supporters, especially when I lost Kamal in 2009.
Lebanese cuisine is prepared fresh daily and full of nutritious ingredients. My secret ingredient: my love of bringing people together over a heavenly meal.
Mama’s Baked ChickenThe use of cinnamon, allspice and other spices add a delicate Mediterranean flavor to this dish.
5 lbs. chicken pieces, such as breasts and thighs
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each: cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, paprika
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup vegetable or olive oil
Clean and pat dry chicken. Place in large bowl, sprinkle with remaining ingredients and stir to coat chicken pieces. Marinate in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
To cook, place chicken on oiled baking pan or pans, leaving room between pieces. Bake at 450 degrees or until cooked through and crispy.
2 lbs. cubed beef
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each: cinnamon,
allspice, black pepper
8 cups water
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery
2 cups diced potato
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup sliced yellow squash
2 cups frozen green beans
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomato
1 can (15 oz.) crushed tomato
In a pressure cooker, which I prefer, or a large pot, place the cubed meat, onion, salt, spices and water. Bring to a boil and skim excess fat from the top. Keep removing excess fat until you have a clear broth
Close the pressure cooker and leave it to cooker until the whistle sound begins, then lower heat and cook for another 40 minutes. Let it cool off heat about 10-20 minutes before you open the pressure cooker. If you are using a regular non-pressurized pot, the stew will need to cook until meat is tender.
Add all remaining ingredients and boil until everything is tender. If desired, serve with cooked rice or noodles and/or pita bread.
Note: Serve this mixture atop pita bread or sliced Italian or French bread.
1 cup feta cheese, diced or chopped
1 cup fresh tomato
½ cup diced onion
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
12 or more Kalamata olives, pitted
Mix feta cheese, tomato, onion, olive oil and oregano in a small serving bowl. Garnish with olives.