To make it easier for you, a souk is a marketplace. And in Lebanon, the souks are replete with ingredients, like saffron, that can be woven into dishes of wondrous appeal.

Best-selling author John Gregory-Smith has fashioned a culinary masterpiece in this book. There are three key reasons to purchase and enjoy this book:

  • The recipes: ranging from street food to home food across the breadth of Lebanon
  • The food photos: quite simply a splendid array of how to present these excellent dishes — you eat first with your nose and your eyes so the dramatic appeal of these photos is important
  • The photos of Lebanon itself: revealing a land of incredible beauty and complexity, exactly like the food

Lebanon has, in recent times, been a troubled land. It has been caught up in the Mideast conflicts but peace again seems to be settling there. The photos in this book will have you searching for your passport, eager to explore and meet the creators of this superior food.

In the US, we tend to be focused on first-world nations in Europe when we think of “the world.” A second-world nation, like Lebanon, often escapes our attention. You would not expect Lebanon to produce, say, Paris-class food.

But it does. And it should. Paris is perhaps 3,000 years old. Lebanon has been a land occupied by key civilizations going back 5,000 years. Ancient Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians [Alexander the Great], and the Romans swarmed over the Lebanese countryside. Later the Arabs came, conquered, and introduced their own layers of culinary flavors and styles.

The result, so beautifully illustrated in this book, is an armada of dishes that are treasures to the eye and the palate. Here are some examples that struck me as deliciously enticing.

Here is a Spicy Tahini Sea Bass:

Or you might enjoy this Fig, Walnut and Freekeh Salad:

A Middle Eastern table must have an eggplant dish, like this Grilled Eggplant Fatteh:

Or you might be beguiled by Chili and Mint Shrimp:

Chapters here cover:

  • Meze
  • Vegetables
  • Roasts and Grills
  • Stews
  • Rice and Grains
  • Breads and Pastries
  • Desserts and Sweets

It is quite impossible to quickly page through this book. You’ll find yourself slowing to admire the photos and recipe titles, then stopping short when you see something — like that Chili and Mint Shrimp — that you want to enjoy. Now. Or tonight. Or this weekend. You’ll find yourself inspired to cook, not just read. And you’ll find yourself entranced with the sumptuous and most different ideas that make Saffron in the Souks a book you must have.

Suzi and I have already cooked a Sizzling Summer Tuna from this book and I’ll be posting the recipe tonight. It’s a grand, sophisticated dish. First-world food at its best. And typical of the quality of Saffron in the Souks.