Simple Mediterranean Flavors Go Far: Olive Oil, Lemon and Garlic.

If you’re new to this blog, please read this first!


As Pat Conroy wrote:

a recipe is a story

And I now know–and am continuing to explore how–these recipes are a part of my story.

Being back on the Mediterranean last month in early September really reminded me of the wonders of olive oil and lemon juice– and garlic of course!

Today,  I want to share one of my favorite side dishes that works well both towards the end of the summer because of its freshness, and in the fall because, as anyone who walks into any market can attest, it’s squash season.

A couple of years ago, while I was rediscovering how to eat, I found this white summer squash at the supermarket, and I immediately thought of one of the dishes I used to love when I was a teen in Lebanon.


I had become so used to seeing regular zucchini, that I was surprised to find them so casually at my neighborhood Ralph’s (Kroger-subsidiary in Southern California.


I immediately bought a bag-full and was so excited to recreate an old favorite out of memory that evening. This is the perfect recipe to share in post #2 of delicious childhood recipes from Lebanon that make for simple, easy, quick and healthy dinners. To make it a full meal, you can roast some chicken in the oven, and make this easy 15-minute dish when you’re ready to eat:


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (Tip from my mom: Squeeze a lot of lemon juice every few days and keep a small jar in the fridge at all times to reduce cooking/salad-making time in the evenings.)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed (I love this garlic press I found at Williams-Sonoma. Another great way to reduce prep time).
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 3 lbs white squash (You can use regular zucchini, below left, if you can’t find these).

  1. Crush the 2 large garlic cloves and pour salt over them in a medium-sized bowl. Mash a bit with a fork. (This is a tip from my mother-in-law who’s a great cook. Really unleashes the fresh flavor of the garlic)simple-dinner-recipe-squash
  2. Then pour in the olive oil and lemon juice over the garlic and salt, and whisk all together. Let them sit together to infuse.
  3. Boil a large pot of salted water.
  4. Wash the squash and cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces.
  5. When the water boils, add the squash pieces, cook for 3 minutes and drain well. You want them a bit crispy because they’ll continue to cook once they’re off the heat. Don’t worry if they brown a bit too.
  6. Add the squash to the bowl with the sauce mixture. Add a dash of black pepper. Toss and enjoy! (Yes, that easy).

Best when served fresh and warm, but does OK if you have leftovers for lunch the next day.


I recommend serving this in a small bowl. You want to have plenty of the sauce with each bite of squash.








Note: You can use this sauce and method with so many other vegetables, including thin green beans and potatoes. I’ll share these at a later point. But I love the combo with squash.


Summer Tomato Recipe — Easy Remake of a Childhood Favorite From Lebanon

Summer Tomato Michelle Chahine Sinno Recipes Whole30

I wrote last year that part of my journey to find that ever-elusive work-life balance was to rediscover how to eat. It’s been a lot of reading (books and labels), planning ahead, shopping, and, of course, cooking.

Along the way, I’ve come to realize that so many of my favorite childhood foods from Lebanon (where I grew up) fit into the lauded “Mediterranean Diet” and Whole3o plan. Some of them are pretty complex to make, so I’ve been playing around with simple ways to recreate them by using accessible ingredients here in the U.S., simplifying process and cook time. I thought I’d share them here as part of my experiments with work-life balance and making the time to eat well.

For example, one of my favorite summer side dishes was thick slices of huge heirloom tomatoes slathered with garlic paste and drizzled with “sumac” (a flavorful Middle Eastern spice easily found on Amazon or in some supermarkets). Now this is as easy as it gets– except for making the garlic paste which is both tricky and time consuming.

However, making homemade, healthy olive oil garlic mayo takes less than five minutes (really!), is a delicious alternative, and the taste is nearly identical (OK, the original is a touch better, but just a touch).

Summer tomato Lebanese recipe Michelle Chahine Sinno

So, for two thick slices of heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, about one-inch thick (I found this delicious tomato at Trader Joe’s):

Heirloom Tomato recipe Lebanon Michelle Chahien Sinno

  • You want to use 3 tablespoons of the garlic olive oil mayo, slathered on thickly. Then drizzle the sumac on generously and add a dash of salt.
  • Voila! So simple and easy, perfect as a side dish to any protein, or, if you want, as a light dinner in the summer time (but then you’d need more than 2 pieces!)

Here’s the recipe for the homemade olive oil mayo, adapted from the one in The Whole30 Book:

  • One egg
  • One tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 and 1/4 cup light olive oil (not extra-virgin! It won’t emulsify right)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard power

1. Break the egg the egg (raw), pour the lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil, and the salt and mustard powder into a blender. Turn it on, and slowly drizzle in the remaining one cup of olive oil on top– as slowly as possible so it emulsifies. This should make about 1 and a half cups of mayo. Store in a jar in the fridge.

(Emulsifying trick: It really helps if the egg and lemon juice are at room temperature.)

2. Crush one large clove of garlic and whisk into three tablespoons of the olive oil mayo.

Lebanese recipe mezza summer tomato


I’m all about tomatoes this time of year! I started to notice summer tomatoes when I first read French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano, in which she highlights seasonal foods and recipes and shares her Simple Summer Tomato Salad recipe.

See my previous recipe posts: