Maureen may sound like an unusual choice of name for a Lebanese girl, but the surname Abood immediately pins her down. Meet Maureen Abood, a Lebanese-American who hails from a large family (60 first cousins!) and who as a child used to watch her Sitto (grandmother) knead traditional Lebanese flatbread in the kitchen. Memories of food inextricably quilted with family left a lasting impression on Abood. So in a fit of carpe diem, she quit her office job in Chicago and moved west to San Francisco to attend culinary school. Upon graduating, Abood headed out to Harbor Springs in northern Michigan—the place of childhood summer retreats with family—where she started her blog “Rose Water and Orange Blossoms.”

Abood is a cook, photographer and avid writer (with a master’s in English and American Literature), and her cookbook, which shares the name of her blog, will be published in spring 2015. Beyond her wonderful Lebanese recipes, she engages her readers through beautifully-woven tales of family, friends and love.

Beirut.com had the chance to find out what she's cooking at home, and get a peek inside her fridge. Check it out.




Beirut.com: How often do you cook and eat at home?
Abood: While I’m always happy to go out to eat, it is one of the greatest pleasures of my life to cook and eat at home. Most every day, you will find me in the kitchen. Of course, that means cooking and eating with the people I love, my family and friends—and I have to say it means connecting with the special people in my life who are no longer here, my Sittis (grandmothers) and aunts who taught me so much about the importance of the table. I really get into the whole process: collecting ideas of what I’d like to cook (my Pinterest boards are a treasure trove for me), foraging seasonal fruits and vegetables and other ingredients, and serving and eating beautiful, delicious food crafted in my own kitchen for anyone who is there to eat and enjoy.

Beirut.com: What are your fridge essentials?
Abood: My fridge would never be caught without a big bowl of olives, labneh, and flat loaves of pita bread. With those, there is always a delicious meal. I also keep eggs, milk, and butter so that I can bake anything I may want to bake at any time. Fresh herbs are essential and are always in my fridge, washed and ready to go. Those are so much easier to use if I prep them right away when I bring them home then keep them in Ziploc bags at the ready. I do keep my nut oils in the refrigerator, walnut and pistachio. I don’t use them every day, but I’m always glad to have them there, along with my anchovy paste and other flavor makers.

Beirut.com: What meal do you cook most at home?
Abood: I am into variety so I don’t get very repetitive with my food, but there is one dish that I make every single week: Lebanese chicken and 7ushweh (chicken, rice, and ground beef pilaf). This is my 8-year-old nephew’s favorite thing to eat, and I love it too, so you can imagine it’s on my stove often. I fry big batches of slivered almonds in butter and keep those in the fridge too, so they’re ready for my 7ushweh on a whim.

Beirut.com: As a chef, do you ever find yourself torn as to whether you should make something from scratch or buy it ready-made at the store?
Abood: That is such an interesting question because YES! I do! The thing is, when you know that you can make something from scratch, you want to do it. It’s healthier and there is something important about doing that. But then… life is life… and we all get busy. For that chicken and 7ushweh, for example, I end up buying lots of chicken that is already roasted from the market. It’s delicious and makes that meal a quick one to pull together.

Beirut.com: Could you potentially whip up a meal from your fridge’s contents for 8-10 unexpected guests?
Abood: For sure, and I do! Big salads are the go-to. Fattoush can always be made with what’s in my refrigerator. The big salad with some deviled eggs and a beautiful labneh and herb plate drizzled with good olive oil, and some fresh hummus with a bowl of olives and bread… that’s a fine meal.




Beirut.com: What’s your policy regarding expiry dates?
Abood: I consider those dates more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. I go by how fresh whatever it is smells or tastes. Yogurt goes on and on, but milk does not.

Beirut.com: Is there anything that’s never allowed in your fridge?
Abood: I can’t think of a thing that I would not allow in my fridge. Perhaps pet food. I am not a pet person!

Beirut.com: What do you suppose your refrigerator reflects on your character?
Abood: This has to have something to do with my devotion to my family and friends. I keep my refrigerator full at all times so that I can always be ready to offer something delicious to anyone who is there. And that includes myself; I consider eating well (not lavishly, but well) an essential part of who I am and one of the great blessings of life, a blessing I am truly grateful for because I know that there are so many people who go hungry every day.

I always keep olives and labneh (more often homemade, but also a quality store-bought labneh). And with that, there must be flatbread and thin pita, fresh fresh. My pickled turnips go on and on and get better with each passing week, so I make big jars of them. A jar of yeast keeps me happy, so I can bake bread anytime I feel inspired. Tahini, of course. And because life always presents good reasons to celebrate: a bottle of Veuve Cliquot!

Be sure to explore Abood's culinary blog to get a glimpse of her cuisine and modern musings. For more, head to “Rose Water and Orange Blossoms.”

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