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VPR Cafe: A Traditional Lebanese Dinner In Barre

Kevin Hurley
Burlington Free Press
From center left, Carolyn Raycraft, Ginny Hickey, Ralph Habbep and Dick Shadroui enjoy the Mazza service and a traditional Lebanese dinner at the Elks club in Barre in November. This dinner is a yearly tradition that started almost 30 years ago.

Although many have to travel north to Montreal for authentic Lebanese cuisine, once a year Vermonters can get their fix in Barre.

Melissa Pasanen, food writer for the Burlington Free Press, tells us about a vibrant Lebanese community in Barre that puts together a traditional dinner each year, usually in early November. The children of the two families who started the tradition 30 years ago organize the dinner now, which has grown so large it takes place at the Elk’s Club and has about 200 attendees.

A feast of Lebanese food is served, including kibbeh, which Pasenan describes as “a Middle Eastern version of steak tartare, with finely ground lean beef, traditionally lamb, mixed with cracked wheat and seasoned with herbs and spices.” Another star of the dinner is lubia bi lahum, a fragrant, cinnamon-scented stew that includes beef, green beans and a variety of spices.

Credit Kevin Hurley / Burlington Free Press
Burlington Free Press
Bitlawa cut, placed, and prepared to be served during a traditional Lebanese dinner at the Elks club in Barre in November.

Pasenen says that while in the kitchen, one of the cooks told her, “We all do it the way our grandmothers did it – and that was the right way.”

Can’t wait until next November? Pasanen adapted the recipe for lubia bi lahum for you to try at home.

Lubia bi lahum | Green Bean Stew with Beef (traditionally, lamb)

Adapted from the Shadroui sisters

2 teaspoons cumin

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Several grinds of pepper

1 pound beef stew meat, cubed

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces (you can use frozen green beans)

In a shallow plate, whisk together cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Toss beef cubes to coat evenly. Heat butter or olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stew pot over medium-high heat and brown meat, in batches if needed so as not to crowd, about 2 to 3 minutes each side. Remove beef to a plate and add a little more butter or oil to pot if needed. Reduce heat to medium and sauté onion and garlic until softened and just turning golden, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add canned tomatoes and juices to pan and stir, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Return beef and any meat juices to pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Set lid on pot, slightly ajar, and simmer for 60-90 minutes until beef is just tender (this will vary depending on the cut of meat). Stir in green beans, cover pot and increase heat to medium. Cook another 10-15 minutes until beans are tender. Serve over rice pilaf. Serves 4.

If you’d like to get a notification about next year’s dinner, please send an email to lizberini@myfairpoint.net.

The VPR Cafe is produced in collaboration with The Burlington Free Press and is made possible on VPR by City Market in Burlington.

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