Maydan: Recipes from Lebanon and Beyond

Rose Previte’s debut cookbook celebrates flavors that come from the home kitchens of women across the Middle East

Rose Previte’s debut cookbook, Maydan: Recipes from Lebanon and Beyond (Abrams), is a celebration of the power of food bringing people together. Maydan, an Arabic term used across the Middle East and Mediterranean, means a central market or square—a gathering place where people, ideas, and cultures meet.

RosePrevite Credit JenniferChase

Washington, DC-based Previte knows firsthand the ways food can create connection, if given the chance: The grandchild of Lebanese and Italian immigrants whose parents wanted to retain their connection to their homelands, she was raised on dishes that at first marked her as strange or different in the small Ohio town where she was raised. But over time, the distinctiveness of her family’s food culture drew friends and neighbors to their home, “where people always knew they were going to get the best food and a lot of it,” she says. Later, as she lived and traveled abroad with her husband, NPR foreign correspondent David Greene, Previte further observed the ways that the kitchen was its own kind of maydan—a space where people (and especially women) could create community and preserve tradition through home cooking.

Although many of Maydan’s recipes are based on dishes from Previte’s Michelin-star restaurant of the same name in DC, they are meant for the home cook, having originated in the kitchens of women across Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Georgia, and Turkey. From easy dips and spreads to dumplings, kebabs, and several kinds of lamb, they invite us to gather together over foods from regions that are close to Previte’s heart—and are sure to become close to your own, too.

Maydan cover new subtitle

TLP: You’re the owner of three very successful restaurants and another business focused on wine. You’re busy! What made you decide to write this cookbook now?

Rose Previte: One very practical reason: wanting to be there for our guests. And then, I think, kind of a bucket list sort of thing I always wanted to do. I felt like people were really connecting to what we were doing [at Maydan] and we had some requests for the recipes. I had always wanted to do a cookbook since cooking as a kid with my parents. My mom doesn’t like recipes—she cooks from memory, cooks from heart. But my dad really liked recipes, so we would cook together on the weekends from Gourmet magazine. I think that elevated my food knowledge and skills.

TLP: This book is about much more than food. Will you share what you hoped Maydan would mean to people?

Rose Previte: Maydan is a tribute to women. If there’s anything that ties communities together, it’s women and it’s food. If you look at the makeup of chefs in Europe and the United States, it is 99.5 percent men. I think women are the unsung heroes of the culinary world. I’m not a formally trained chef. I’m trained by my mother. We catered Lebanese food out of our kitchen. With the restaurant, writing the book, it was a really important statement for me to say, “We’re flipping this on its head. We’re going to go where I know the good stuff is, into the homes of these women. Forget what you know.” It worked, and it worked so well. We brought those techniques and those traditional recipes back to the restaurant and now the book. You can see these women in the book, in the acknowledgements, and in the recipes.

TLP: What’s your favorite recipe in Maydan?

Rose Previte: The koosa, the stuffed squash. I think everybody can make it. It’s a little daring but very doable. It’s my ultimate comfort food. I stuff the little squash with lamb and rice, but you can also just do it vegetarian, just rice. We adapt it so that you can do it either way. Then it’s cooked in a tomato sauce, [so it’s] a soup and a vegetable and a meat. It’s like a one-dish wonder to me—so warming in the winter season but also so fresh in the summer, with the tomatoes and the squash.

EmptyQuarter pa Maydan

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