When Jennifer Alcott was researching recipes to create a traditional Lebanese dinner to share with Tulsa World readers, she ran across a valuable find for her personally.
Alcott and husband John operate Jamil’s, a long-running fine-dining destination and the last of the Lebanese steakhouses in Tulsa that include an array of hors d’oeuvres with the entrees.
Jennifer is granddaughter of founder Jim S. “Jamil” Elias and daughter of the late Tyrone Elias, who took over the restaurant following his father’s death in 1977. Tyrone died in 2018.
“I was going through one of our family’s cookbooks to make sure I was spelling things right, and I ran across these old recipes of my dad’s,” Jennifer said. “They were already pared down to family size. I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, John, look what I found.’ The salad dressing is even the same one we use in the restaurant.”
The salad dressing is used in a Lebanese-style salad. It goes with beef shish kabobs, rice pilaf and lub’ye ma’a zayt (green beans with oil).
“You can use chicken or shrimp in the shish kabob if you prefer,” Jennifer said. “I grilled the shish kabobs, but you can broil it or cook it any way you like.
“This is definitely a dinner my parents would cook at home. Instead of doing a shish kabob, my mom would put the beef in the green beans and tomatoes and serve it like that. My kids don’t like the meat mixed with the green beans, so we do the shish kabobs. They also prefer chicken over beef.
“The green beans also can be served over the rice or served separately. Rice is a standard side, and it’s easy to do. Most meals also have pita bread, but you can buy that.”
Jennifer said the current COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed the way Jamil’s does business, but also will alter what it does in the future.
“We are going to put in a carryout window because we can see more business going in that direction,” she said. “We originally were going to turn this back room into a bar, but I think it is better to go in this direction. I would like to keep our carryout and dine-in separate.
“A lot of customers who have been with us 40 or 50 years probably still won’t want to come inside a restaurant for a long time, and I don’t blame them. I don’t know when we will reopen the dining room, but we will have to know it is safe. I wouldn’t want any of my kids or customers to get sick.”
Three of Alcott’s children — Jack, Jenna and Josie — plus Jenna’s boyfriend, Oscar, are the only employees working inside Jamil’s at this time. The Alcotts have three other children at home.
“The older ones help with the younger ones, which is wonderful,” Jennifer said. “Jenna set up work stations for their schoolwork and got everything organized when they had to stay home.”
Jennifer said the hors d’oeuvres — tabouli, hummus, relish tray, pita bread, cabbage roll, barbecue rib, crackers, smoked bologna, salad, baked potato — will continue to be included in the curbside pickup and delivery orders, but she regrets some changes to come.
“We are having to use packets for salt, pepper, butter and barbecue sauce,” she said. “I think we will have to continue to do it after we reopen. I hate to do it, but I really think I have to. Most of our customers support what we are doing.”
1 quart red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
4 ounces garlic, minced
4 ounces dried mint leaves
4 ounces zaatar
Salt and olive oil to taste
1. Mix ingredients, pour over lettuce and toss.
BEEF SHISH KABOB
Bell peppers, halved or quartered
Tomatoes, halved or quartered
Onions, halved or quartered
1. Arrange vegetables and meat on skewers and grill or broil until done.
1 cup Uncle Ben’s rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1. Pour ingredients in pot, bring to a boil, then cover and cook on medium for 30 minutes.
LUB’YE MA’A ZAYT
1 pound fresh green beans or 2 cans green beans, drained
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 large tomato or 1 can tomatoes
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
½ cup water
1 large onion, slivered
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1. Saute onions in oil.
2. Add green beans, spices and water; cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Note: Black-eyed peas, fava beans or butter beans may be used instead of green beans.