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A Christmas Wish From Seif

December 25, 2011

Christmas this year comes at a time when minorities in the region, specifically Christians, face threat from radical groups, and unfair ideologies. May this Christmas bring it’s blessings to everyone in the region. May the birth of Christ bring rays of hope, coexistence, love, and fairness to all – after all he was  born to spread a message of love and compassion. With that said, I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Hopefully, you and your families have a great day, and ultimately, an amazing year. May the cross continue to stand tall on all of the regions’ churches and holy sites for thousands of more years to come. Have a blessed Christmas, and a great holiday to all.

The star of Bethlehem was a star of hope that led the wise men to the fulfillment of their expectations, the success of their expedition. Nothing in this world is more fundamental for success in life than hope, and this star pointed to our only source for true hope: Jesus Christ. – D. James Kennedy

Christmas, Beirut, Lebanon

Seif Makes – Pasta Sauce

December 20, 2011

Okay so for those of you who seen my past sauce on Twitter, I decided to make this “Seif Makes” post on my blog – so much easier than e-mailing all those who asked for the recipe. Yay. I’m sure the adventures of a cooking Lebanese man may be intriguing to many lol. Because this post is being made AFTER I made my sauce, I will be using pictures from the net. Next time, I’ll have pictures that I take. Wow, I cannot believe I am doing a recipe on my blog. I never thought I’d see the day :P. Keep in mind I have never done a recipe before so if I don’t sound too “correct” forgive me. Oh, and this is a recipe you probably own’t master the first time you make it. When you make it once, the second time LITERALLY, will be much better – I promise. Also, people like different tastes, so they can adjust this to the way they see fit. I used this video as a guide, but did it differently. So here goes.

Ingredients:

1 – Medium sized onion [diced finely]
6 – Mini carrots diced finely as well OR 1 regular sized carrot
9 – ripe tomatoes
2 – teaspoons tomato paste
1 can of tomatoes  in their juice (2.84 L)
2 – finely chopped cloves of garlic
Coarse sea salt
Olive oil
Dried oregano leaves
Dried (or fresh) sweet basil
Black pepper

OR for a quicker version (cheaters)

Instead of using the canned tomatoes and juice, you can substitute it with 1 can of tomato sauce (398 ml) – no garlic, herbs, etc mixed in. Take out the second teaspoon of tomato paste here.

Step one – Wash the tomatoes while bringing a deep pot of water to a boil. Also prepare a bowl of ice water on the side.

Step two – When the water comes to a boil, drop your tomatoes in until their skin begins to peel off. Usually this takes me about 30-60 seconds. When you see that the skin has  started to come apart, take them out with one of those long mesh strainers and drop them (individually) into the ice water for literally 10 seconds – just long enough for you to be able to hold them in your hand. You can literally grab the peel and pull it, and it should all come off in one piece. Do that with all your tomatoes.  (Yes steps one and two are a cool trick for peeling tomatoes for sauces. *High five*)

This is how the tomatoes should peel

Step three – when the tomatoes are peeled, take a knife and take out the green part on the top that is usually attached to the stem. Dont worry about the core, I will get to that later.

Step four – in a deep pot (because your sauce will splatter) put just enough olive oil for you to fry the finely chopped onions, carrots, and garlic. You don’t want to go for too long, because a.) olive oil burns easily and b.) when garlic is browned too much, it becomes very strong and dominant in flavor (usually not a good one). Remember to keep stirring because you don’t want anything to burn. Most importantly, when using olive oil, you’re going to have to lift the pot around…fumble with it. You know what to do. This is where i also add the sea salt. I take 2-3 pinches (not too much) and throw it into the mixture. This allows the salt to soak up an excess water, and so on. Keep in mind, if you are going to use canned tomato sauce with your fresh tomatoes, take it easy on the salt as it is pretty salted itself.

Step five – when the vegetables have started to just slightly loose their color, I take the vegetable and oil mixture off the burner and thats where I add my tomatoes. You’re going to put your hand as low as it can go, and squeeze the tomatoes (wash your hands) into a mush. You’ll see that you have a whitish-yellow hard part in your hands, take as much tomato as you can off of it and throw it out. The core if you will. It’s okay if it is chunky.  Also, here is where you can add the canned tomato AND the tomato juice they are in (OR the tomato sauce for the cheaters). The reason I don’t do all fresh tomatoes is because…well…I like dark color sauces. I notice if you use only fresh, its a light shade of red.  Also you can add the 1-2 teaspoon of tomato paste here (depending on amount of things you have in your pot).

Step six –  using a mashed potato maker ( LOOL I don’t know its name), crush the tomato chunks inside the pot.

Step seven – add the dried oregano leaves, dashes of pepper (to your liking – I usually do 3). If you are using DRIED basil leaves, you can add them in here too. If they are fresh, leave them until the end.

Step eight – let it simmer to desired thickness. Note, if you are using the fresh + canned tomatoes + their juices option, you will be boiling sauce for a good 2 hours (I’ve done three hours). If you’re using tomato sauce + fresh tomato option, an hour and a half is usually ok). You WILL have to stir the sauce every 5 – 7 minutes, so nothing is sticking to the bottom and burning. Also, I usually keep the heat around medium. This is a hectic thing, because you’re going to have to play with the heat, sometimes bringing it down and so on. It’s going to splatter all over. That’s why deep pot.

Step nine – when the sauce is at its desired thickness, you’re going to take it off the heat. Here is where you add the FRESH basil if you are using it. The reason fresh basil is at the end is because it will get soggy and get bitter if over cooked. You can add 5 whole leaves, or about a teaspoon of finely chopped fresh ones.

NOTE: before you take the sauce off the burner, taste it. Because you have fresh tomatoes in there, the acidity will make it sour. To fix this you have two options.  One – add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidity OR two -teaspoon of sugar. You have to play around with this as well. So make sure you taste (don’t double dip 😛 ) until you find it just right. Also, this will get rid of bitterness too.

Step ten– when it has cooled down enough, and depending on how you like sauce and which of my combinations you used, you might want to strain them. This is pretty easy. Get a pot, strainer, pour through the strainer, and voila. If you (like me) like it chunky, go ahead and keep it as is. Also check for salt. I don’t use too much salt, simply because I add salt later on, but adjust the salt to your liking.

– This can store in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can also mason jar them –

My finished version here: http://lockerz.com/s/16643263

Servings: http://lockerz.com/s/166459560 this is how much sauce i had. Each of those is about 1.8 cups.

Lebanon In The News: A Quick Roundup

November 18, 2011

This is something new I am going to try out on my blog – a news roundup! I mean what else is Lebanon known for than showing up in the news? 😛

Target of twin Lebanon blasts remains mystery [Not really a mystery for many of us, but moving on]
Lebanon beats South Korea in Wcup Qualifying  [Well done Lebanon! Maybe we can put more funds towards our national team now!]
Lebanese politicians trade punches in Syria spat [EMBARRASSING! HANG THE LOT!]
Miss Lebanon remarks spark controversy [Miss Habalon once again embarrasses Lebanon]
Lebanon’s Hariri stages comeback on Twitter [Welcome to Twitter Hariri! Yallah, the rest of the idiots follow suit]
Tom Jones’s youthful performance wows Beirut [Mom almost died when she heard he was in Beirut]
Greek Orthodox archdiocese in Beirut looted, vandalized [Shameful. Need I say more?]
AUB elections – PSP key to polls [Why do we have these elections? To further encourage hate among the people of our country? I mean the fact that riot police were present speaks for itself.]
Catholic patriarchs urge Christians to hang on to lands [I guess the right of any religious entity in the nation to do so]
Brazil’s Vice-President to visit ancestral Koura home [Lebanese in Brazil are said to be 12 million in population! Ahla w Sahla Mr. Vice President]
Beirut, an imperfect haven for LGBT refugees [Lebanon has always been somewhat of a haven for unwelcome groups in the #MENA region…no?]
Byblos Bank and AUB launch consumer Confidence Index in Lebanon [AUB, once again taking a leading role in Lebanon]

A Quick Update!

November 14, 2011

Hello everyone! Just a quick visit from me today! Hope everyone is doing well. I am sorry I haven’t been posting much lately, I am preparing some awesome content to be shared soon! With, what I will call the “revival of my blog”, I will be bringing back back some of my most popular types of posts: “Sects And The City”, “Video De La Semiane”, “Guest Posts”, and of course my twitter based posts – where you guys help me come up with an awesome post. I will also be introducing some awesome new challenges, give aways, and “Discover Lebanon” posts. So please stay tuned!

However, until then, lets help get the word out abut SeifAndBeirut.com by sharing this blog with everyone! Also, to make things easier by composing all my pages into one simple page, I have created this: http://about.me/aliseif ! Lets share people! 😀

Cheers!

Dear Lebanon, Grow Up

October 25, 2011

Vote for Jeita!

Jeita is up for the “New 7 Wonders of the World: Nature”. It is a finalist. Great right? I think so. I know many other on the Lebanese Online Community are happy about it as well, it’s great. But there is one thing that bothers me. When Lebanese are sitting online, in their office chairs bashing and making fun of Jeita for being a finalist. They were actually tweeting and posting reasons NOT to vote for Jeita. Now guess what? These same individuals are the ones that complain about Lebanon on a daily basis. One day Lebanon doesn’t have enough electricity, one day the internet is slow, and one day bla bla bla.

So I have something to say. Who cares if it’s $20 to enter Jeita? Li byesma3 bi 2oul a3din naymin bi Jeita ento. Most of you have been to Jeita, just like me, twice in your life – 4 times MAXIMUM, so complaining about this is just RIDICULOUS. It’s owned by a private company someone tweeted. Big deal. I think there is something that people are forgetting, whoever owns it or not – it is still Lebanese. Bringing recognition to Jeita, brings recognition to Lebanon, which in turn would bring tourists and revenue to the country. I will show you how.

One day, Jeita made it on to the 7 New Wonders of The World: Nature. Daphne and her husband Charles watched it on the news from their home in London. “Daphne dear, doesn’t Jeita look marvelous?”, said Charles. “Indeed it does dear, let us travel to Lebanon”. (Of course they didn’t just pack their clothes the next day and go, but you get what I mean).

Locally owned restaurant in Zahle

So Daphne and Charles come to Lebanon. They rent a room in a hotel. When the jetlag is gone, and they feel relaxed, they leave their room and take a tour of Jeita prepared by a local tourism agency. Of course, they go to Harissa and check out the Telefrique on the same day. So Daphne and Charles (along with their two daughters Veronica and Charlotte) go through the Jeita Caves. After a thousand “Oh my’s” and “splendid’s”, their tour comes to an end. They enjoyed it. But since they came to Lebanon from a far away place, they can’t just leave after they seen the grotto! What they did instead was go to a restaurant in Jounieh and enjoy some food – who once again, for the most part, benefited a local Lebanese. They are in Lebanon, they aren’t going to go eat McDonalds. They want, like most tourists, something new to eat.

“What do we do now pumpkin? Is there anything else to do in Lebanon?”, said Daphne. “Oh well, yes there is dear, I have a brochure here somewhere’, said Charles as he pulled out a brochure displaying the various things to do in Lebanon. On that list were the ancient ruins of Baalbek, Faqra, and Anjar. The ruins in Tyre and the ancient Tyre Hippodrome. There was a list of beach resorts in Damour, Tabarja, Batroun, Jounieh. A photo of the Port of Byblos, the vineyards and various wineries in the Bekaa Valley. Beiteddine and Moussa Castle were on the list accompanied by Qana (where Jesus performed his first miracle). The Beirut National Museum and some privately owned ones. Not to mention Gemmayze and Monot and Hamra. Oh, and the Lebanese Cedars. Moukhtara and Baakline water falls. The falls in Jezzine.  ALL SURROUNDED BY LOCAL LEBANESE WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM JEITA! Need I go on?

Lebanese taxi driver

Plus, getting to and from these places do include taxi or services. Food at local restaurants. Buying souvenirs. Looking at things that would interest them and buying them. I think what we forget is that tourists (the ones from the west) do not want to buy things and go to places they have in their countries of origin. So like I mentioned earlier – they are going to buy food made by locally owned restaurants. They are going to buy handicrafts made by the locals. They are going to buy and mingle with those around them.

Their daughters are going to want to explore Lebanon’s nightlife. They are going to go up and down Gemmayze. They are going to dance their behinds off there too, and they’re going to eat and drink at all these establishments that are found on these streets – most of which (MOST) are owned by Lebanese. So it’s not JUST the “owners of Jeita” who are benefiting from Jeita being on this 7 Wonders list.

Stop complaining about Lebanon not being so great when every time it gets a chance you bash it from your office chairs because you want to be funny. Support Lebanon, no matter what, because the more it appears to the world outside the better our situation is going to get. We do not have oil, we do not have natural resources to dwindle – its tourism. That’s all we have. So when you are bashing something that can bring more revenue to Lebanon, I am sure I am not the only one who will take it to offense. When Daphne and Charles are sipping tea with their friends, they are going to mention Lebanon. When their daughters sit in their university cafeterias they are going to do the same. Word of mouth is amazing, and all it takes is someone to recommend a place to visit. Ask any tourist in Lebanon, why did you pick Lebanon, almost 70% of the time they will say “a friend recommended it so I checked it out online and now I’m here”.

Not everything is a mockery and Lebanese all you do is mock things that could potentially make things better in our country. What a shame.

Anyways, if you want to check out Jeita, vote or get voting information it is all found here: http://www.jeitagrotto.com/index.html

Be Well…

October 8, 2011

It bothers me to see you down,
I do not want to see you frown.

Your a very silly girl,
You never want to make me hurl.

Because you are my best friend,
I want to see your sadness end.

I don’t understand why you hurt,
You’re always on alert.

I miss when you used to laugh,
your sadness cuts 3omrik in half.

I know deep down you are not sick,
you still threaten to hit me with that broomstick.

I know sometimes they say mean things,
they don’t know the joy your smile brings.

I love when you yell at me,
then I make you laugh until you pee.

You never seem like yourself anymore,
the woman we all adore.

Behind that wall of strength you built,
a young child smiles and laughs and starts to wilt.

I miss the friend who always smiled,
I miss those eyes, so strong and wild.

I know this a silly poem,
it’ll make you smile when you’re at home.

And if one day you just give up,
I’ll give you cranberry tea in a tea cup.

Now I ran out of things to say,
please come back… don’t go away.

Inti ya Sara akbar dibbi,
I want to come and eat fried kibbi.

Now I say Je t’embrasse,
ma fhimti shi ya ras ma3mul min khass.

I Work Ya Zaid…

October 8, 2011

”]A friend of mine was talking to me via Skype the other day. It was a great conversation for the most part, talking about his new semester at the Lebanese University. My friend, who I’ll call…Zaid, really has been enjoying his time in Beirut in comparison to his usual Toronto. I can imagine his experience, new to Lebanon, at a public university, living in Beirut for the first time – its really quite different from the “Canadian lifestyle” in many ways. But all in all, he likes it.

See Beirut is really a peculiar city. I mean, you never really know what to expect. So many cultural differences and boundaries, a religiously dynamic city, conservative… yet very liberal at the same time, I have learned that you can expect the unexpected in Beirut. I told Zaid that. He supposedly can handle whatever Lebanon throws at him. Rock on dude *rolls eyes*.

So Zaid meets a girl. A gorgeous girl so he says, goes to university with him, and being in the same faculty, they see each other quite a lot – in fact, chemistry must have been good, because they had “a thing” all summer long. Whatever that means. Long story short, Zaid and this girl become close. He described her as a girl from a “great family”, very “humble”, “welcoming” and “generous”. Except the girl had a problem. She vanishes for hours at a time, days sometimes, and poor little Zaid gets worried – only to have this girl pop back into existence. Many times she was asked by Zaid “where do you go?”. “I work ya Zaid”, she would reply.

One day, when things were getting serious, Zaid messages this girl, and she wasn’t around…as usual. He kept messaging until she replied, “I’m at work ya Zaid. I’ll see you tomorrow”. Zaid brushes it off. That night, Zaid is walking and he is dumbfounded. There, leaning over into a car is “his girl”. Wtf, I know. Here’s the thing, she works as a prostitute.

My initial reaction was, “you had no idea ya3ne?”. Then he explained the situation. The woman, Allah yostor 3a jami3 el 3alam, who is “very conservative” during the day, has an ailing father. Cancer I believe. Medication, treatment, and the likes is expensive in privatized Lebanon – making his treatment ultimately impossible. The woman, who does what she does at night, makes enough money to at least give her father some of his treatment. With the “loaning” system our hospitals have (which ultimately means the family pays half and slowly they can repay the hospital for the other half), treatment becomes possible. Without her “work”…her father dies from a cancer that usually is very easily curable!

This got me thinking. How many “good girls” in our country, who come from very good families, look to work like this to help make ends meet – or ultimately save a life? The issue in this post isn’t the act of prostitution, nor the girl and her work. In fact, the point of this post is to ask why most nations (including our Syrian neighbors….YES Syria) have very good social institutions and welfare programs that help people facing circumstances like this. If that’s too much to ask for in Lebanon, then at least let us set up a program that gives free treatment to families who REALLY, cannot afford it.

I can imagine how many nights I’ve driven through Maameltein, seen a group of women waiting for some clients and judged them. Now, I can’t help but wonder how many of these women face such issues and circumstances like the poor woman mentioned in the beginning of this post. We usually think these women are “Eastern European women” or “refugees from neighboring countries” – but is that really true? Are there not any women out there who really face such terrible circumstances where prostitution is the only option? Most importantly, how do we help them, when for the past 35-40 years our governments have been robbing us for billions of dollars, isn’t?

BeirutNightlife.Com posted an article a while ago, where it shared a story of a woman who makes $34,000 USD in three months. The average cost for cancer treatment in Lebanon starts at a minimum of $15,000 USD. Do the math. With an income like that, a girl can pay for two treatments in three months.

Desperation is a dangerous thing, no matter where an individual is. Especially if the girl has a family member she can save.

So what about Zaid? He doesn’t see the girl anymore. Its it fair? To him, yes. But I envy his understanding of her situation, most importantly, he never referred to her as “sh******a” or “ma*****h“. Simply, he said, “shaghleh mish la 2ela [a job that not for her]”. From what I understood, none of her friends know about her work, unless of course they came across her on the side of the street as well. Not surprisingly, when he asked about her family through a mutual friend / colleague – he was told “her father is passing away, he has cancer”. Its very sad.

I can’t help but wonder, where does she say the money is coming from? Or how many girls I know in Lebanon have had this type of work cross their minds to make their ends meet. Before this government [and the ones prior to it] argues about who gets what damn seat in Lebanon’s parliament, why don’t they cough of the millions, if not billions, stolen and help people in Lebanon who need it. The time is now.