On an early Summer weekend, my family and a couple of friends decided to have a sleepover and rafting in Al Assi River in the Bekaa. We hit it off for the 3 hour drive, co-piloting to my sister’s friend which made the time pass like a breeze.
We reached there at night, modest bungalows by the freezing river, under the pitch black sky, around the fire that the other groups have started to keep warm. We slept around midnight to get some rest before the busy day ahead.
A loud scream followed by a few laughs woke us up early in the morning coming from a couple of guys who felt heroic and decided to take a dip in the freezing flowing river water. We got out to enjoy the view wink. We had breakfast and recieved our safety instructions along with the life jackets and helmets and went into the river for a journey filled with fun, laughter, and ice cold water.
On our way back, we couldn’t but notice the beautiful early summer produce; local potatoes, onions, cauliflower, artichokes, and a huge array of greens and herbs. We had to stop and pack the car’s trunk. The man wanted to sell his produce suggesting everything and occasionally making deals to make us buy. I can’t deny that his produce looked appetizing. Another thing that captured my attention was the many places with rough writings on their walls promoting their wood-fired tannour bread. I asked to stop at one of the shops and descended with my wallet. A small shop with 3 women inside waiting for drooling customers who already passed a couple of other similar shops but were hesitant about stopping. The packed bread loaves were on a table on the right with a few remaining loaves still being packed. I bought 2 bags and the lady was so kind she gave me a loaf to get busy with. We ate half a bag on our way as we were famished.
We stopped by, once heart-of-the-country city, Zahleh and Al Berdawni for lunch. We chose a restaurant by the flowing Berdawni river and ordered the Lebanese formula with arak. The food floods, mezze to start with, followed by the raw meat platters, then the grilled meat, chicken, and kafta, and fruits at the end. The restaurant was really good as we enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. The food presentation, temperature, and flavors was excellent. I was fascinated by how the dishes looker fabulous in the afternoon light under the trees. No editing required.
A take-home memory was this wonderful bread: fresh handmade bread traditionally prepared with aromas of wood smoke and ashes gently clinging to the flour and yeast. Apart from scooping mouthful of spicy shakshouka for breakfast, I had one use I could think of: wrapping it around labneh and vegetables and drizzling the whole thing with olive oil! Can’t beat the simplicity of this.
Labneh Sandwich in Wood-fired Tannour Bread
- 2 loaves of Tannour bread (or arabic bread)
- 8 tbsp Labneh
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 lettuce leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh green thyme
- 1 tomato
- 1/4 cup sliced olives (green on black)
- Few mint leaves
- Open the loaves on a clean counter and spread the labneh to cover a wide diameter across the loaf reaching the ends
- Shred the lettuce and slice the tomato into thin slices. Arrange them along with the rest of the ingredients on top of the lebneh
- Drizzle the olive oil and fold 2cm of edges over the vegetable. Fold the edge closest to you to cover the ingredients and 3/4 the loaf. Hold your fingers over it and roll tightly. Cut diagonally and serve immediately to over giving the bread time to absorb the moisture from the ingredients
This is not a real recipe. It is a guideline to basic sandwiches we grew up to. Replace Labneh with Zaatar mix and enjoy with loads of olive oil for an equally delicious, healthy and vegan sandwich.