Citizens, the ancient country of Lebanon is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south. Lebanon’s location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland facilitated its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity.
The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years, predating recorded history. Lebanon was the home of the Canaanites/Phoenicians and their kingdom, a maritime culture that flourished for over a thousand years (c. 1550–539 BC). In 64 BC, the region came under the rule of the Roman Empire, and eventually became one of the Empire’s leading centers of Christianity.
The region eventually came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Following the collapse of the empire after World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon were mandated to France. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, establishing a unique political system – “confessionalism” – that is, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities. Foreign troops withdrew completely from Lebanon on December 31, 1946.
Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and renowned prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, commerce, and banking. Due to its financial power and diversity in its heyday, Lebanon was compared to Switzerland, and its capital Beirut attracted so many tourists that it was known as “the Paris of the Middle East”.
Lebanese cuisine is very healthy and includes an abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat. When red meat is eaten it is usually lamb on the coast, and goat meat in the mountain regions. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned by lemon juice.; olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon are typical flavors found in the Lebanese diet.
Most often foods are either grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts. Vegetables are often eaten raw or pickled as well as cooked. These deliciously crunchy turnip pickles – stained an electric hot pink or purple from beet juice – are very common throughout Lebanon and the Middle East and are a necessity for a good falafel sandwich.
They are very easy to make and would be a delicious accompaniment to any number of lunch and dinner recipes, Citizens! I have modified the recipe with a hint of Syrian influence, adding some celery stalks and bay leaves to the classic recipe. I’ve also increased the garlic and added peppercorns because TFD digs the spicy. 😉
Battle on – The Generalissimo
The Hirshon Lebanese Pickled Turnips – مخلل اللفت و الشمندر
(Kabees El Lift)
3 cups (750 ml) water
⅓ cup (70 g) coarse white salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup (250 ml) white vinegar (distilled)
2 pounds (1 kg) turnips, peeled
3 sprigs young celery stalks with many leaves
1 small beet, or a few slices from a regular-size beet, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1. In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of the water. Add the salt and bay leaves, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
2. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the vinegar and the rest of the water.
3. Cut the turnips and the beet into batons, about the size of French fries. Put all ingredients except brine into a large, clean jar, then pour the salted brine over them in the jar, including the bay leaves.
4. Cover and let sit at room temperature, in a relatively cool place, for one week. Once done, they can be refrigerated until ready to serve.
Storage: The pickles will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. They’ll be rather strong at first, but will mellow after a few days. They should be enjoyed within six weeks after they’re made.