You can’t think of Lebanese cuisine without thinking of mezze: a big table full of all kinds of delicious dishes. It’s the backbone of any genuine Lebanese gathering between family and friends.

It was the sheer love of mezze that drove author, photographer, and chef Barbara Massad to write Mezze: A Labor of Love, a unique book featuring recipes and colorful artwork all about the many wonderful components of the Lebanese mezze.

(Photo via Facebook)

Massad was born in Beirut, and moved to Florida as a child. And it was there that she made her culinary debut, assisting her father in the family-owned Lebanese restaurant Kebabs & Things.

Despite earning a degree in Advertising and Marketing upon her return to Lebanon in 1988, and working for various respected institutions, she was determined to pursue her passion for cooking, and thus sought proper training, working in restaurants under the tutelage of prominent chefs in Lebanon, Italy, and France.

Massad also inherited another passion from her father: photography. She decided to combine her enthusiasm for both cooking and photography, and the result was Man’oushe: Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery (2009), a cookbook dedicated to that distinctly Lebanese pastry, the man'oushe, depicting its varieties and preparation through photos.

The book won the Gourmand Cookbook Award in 2009 and the Lebanese Academy of Gastronomy Award that same year, and proved to be quite the helpful resource for those interested in making their very own mana'eesh.

(Photo via My Culinary Journey Through Lebanon)

Her followup publication, Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry, saw her tackling the process of preserving food, the Lebanese mouneh. It too was critically praised, winning both the Gourmand Cookbook Award and the Prix de La Literature Gastronomique Award in 2010.

Now she’s back with her third book, Mezze: A Labor of Love, and it looks to be her most interesting yet. According to Massad, the book presents her own personal interpretations of the mezze, based on her years of experimentation in Lebanon and the US.

The recipes within the book are not set in stone, but merely reflect the author’s own take on mezze. This aspect of openness and individuality is something she holds in high regard. “For me cooking is about the person behind the food, not an exact science; there is always room for growth and personal touches,” Massad told

(Photo via Facebook)

In a departure from the style of her previous books, Massad chose not to use photography in this one, but instead sought out illustrator Pascale Hares to provide whimsically colorful Lebanese-inspired artwork to accompany her text.

Massad explains: “I didn’t want the Mezze book to be simply a recipe book with recipes and photos, but an art book, coffee table book, and recipe book, and a way to 'fish khel’eh' (blow off steam). I met a wonderful illustrator who was able to connect with my vision and did a wonderful job portraying my recipes. I’m very grateful.”

The author hopes that her latest book proves to be a helpful resource for all who are looking to prepare their own mezze, whether they’re beginner cooks or masters of the kitchen, Lebanese natives or fascinated foreigners. “The Lebanese will appreciate a new vision of portraying our favorite culinary heritage and foreigners will be curious to look at the illustrations, read the words I have written about each recipe and finally try them out.”

(Photo via Facebook)

Massad is no doubt an expert at each and every recipe covered in her book, but when it comes to her personal favorite dishes, they’d have to be tabbouleh and baba ghanouj, which she would have every night back when she worked at the Kebabs & Things restaurant. She also has a thing for vegetarian dishes, having been a vegetarian since April.

Head down to the book’s release party at Al Falamanki on November 28 for a chance to meet the author over some tasty Lebanese delicacies, and head to the book’s Facebook Page for more information and updates.

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