Barsha’s Lenora and Adnen Marouani Find Salvation in Food, Family and Community
A full plate.
- CategoryEat & Drink, People
- Produced, written & styled byKara Mickelson
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
When Barsha opened earlier this year in Hermosa Beach, the community embraced the new eatery from Lenora and Adnen Marouani with much enthusiasm. The couple always wanted a welcoming restaurant space that would allow them to share with the community their passion for food, wine and their cultures. The menu is a modern twist on Adnen’s Tunisian roots and Lenora’s desire to keep innovating, exploring new flavor combinations and using food to connect and learn about other cultures.
• 1 pound edamame
• ½ teaspoon garlic, chopped
• ½ teaspoon shallots, chopped
• pinch of red pepper flakes
(add more if you like spicy)
• 1 teaspoon tabil spice blend
• ½ lemon
• pinch salt
Blanch edamame in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain. Heat large pan with oil. Sauté garlic and shallots, then add edamame, tabil and red pepper flakes. Allow edamame to blister about 1 minute. Squeeze lemon over edamame and top with salt. Mix until edamame is well coated. Serve in small Tunisian tagine (the top can be flipped over to add empty pods).
Then the pandemic hit in March. They went from full houses to full days packaging and delivering meals to hungry takeout clients. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but you’re unlikely ever to hear them complain.
For Lenora and Adnen, food has always represented a kind of salvation. They both came from humble beginnings and developed a passion for food that’s guided them to where they are now. They even met while working in a Vegas restaurant. It has to do with a quest for spinach. It’s a good “this is how we met” love story, and you should ask them about it on your next visit.
As a young entrepreneurial couple with multiple passions and business adventures, they tend to make work-life balance look easy. First they launched a successful wine bar and retail design business in Manhattan Beach. In addition to the new Hermosa restaurant, they recently crafted a wine rosé blend, complete with a personalized label that includes their daughter’s art.
Like most entrepreneurial couples, the lines easily blur between work and family. Lenora clarifies that the pendulum swings wildly from side to side. While the family is a priority, some days the kids get most of her attention, and on other days the business responsibilities or community projects may take center stage.
Lenora recently decided to homeschool daughter Pash to help make more family time in their tight schedules. Their family life is a little like an improvisational dance with new choreography thrown in from time to time. They don’t have a road map forward; they just try to readjust as needed to keep the pace and add fuel to the dream.
They understand that each new day might present a new life lesson and may force an unforeseen pivot. But food, wine and community are still the driving passion, and regardless of the hurdles, Lenora believes that it’s important to stay focused on the vision while practicing “going with the flow.”
Her advice to other ambitious dreamers, or anybody feeling the added pressure of trying to have it all today: “Allow yourself to create and be gentle with yourself and others.” This “we are all in this together” attitude is reflective in the couple’s warmth and a commitment to the community they serve.
“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.”
— Langston Hughes
Lenora gets discouraged seeing friends’ and neighbors’ businesses falter during the pandemic, even when they are following safety guidelines and looking for creative solutions. She admits that they have had their own personal and professional struggles. “Sometimes you just wonder if it is worth the fight,” she shares—adding that “yes, it is worth it.” She and Adnen always seem to come back to what drives them.
They started the wine bar in Manhattan Beach eight years ago, so they were already aware of the challenges that come with running a local business. She found a love for food in a home economics class before going to culinary school and working in a professional kitchen.
- 1 pound lamb merguez sausage (they make it in-house!)
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 Anaheim pepper, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 teaspoons tabil spice blend
- 2 teaspoons harissa (available at Barsha MB)
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- salt, to taste
- 4 farm eggs
- ½ cup feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
Sauté lamb merguez with garlic, onions and peppers in a large ovenproof skillet (a cooking tagine can also be used). Add tabil and cook until it releases aroma, about 1 minute. Add harissa and tomato paste. Cook 1 minute to deepen the flavor. Add chopped tomatoes, mix and let cook for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt according to your liking. Crack eggs, evenly distributed, over mixture. Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the egg white cooks and the yolk is still runny. Top with feta and cilantro. Serve with a Barsha baguette drizzled with Tunisian olive oil.
NOTE: Easily a vegetarian dish if you omit the lamb merguez sausage.
In Tunisia, Adnen worked peeling potatoes at age 11 and helped his mom in the kitchen preparing family meals. They both found their passion for food early on. In culinary terms, the love of food is the connective tissue that keeps family and business goals tethered.
If a recipe was a metaphor for how Lenora approaches life, it’s about creating what you can with the ingredients you have on hand. It’s how she and Adnen have lived their lives. She is confident that everybody can make something surprising, delicious and wonderfully unexpected in their life or the kitchen.
It’s a philosophy of creating vs. resisting, and building vs. retreating. Restaurant business and professional kitchen work can test anybody’s resolve. They have weathered storms before, and they feel stronger today and are grateful for the community support.
In the face of resistance, Lenora says, “Try going with the flow and let yourself fly. Look at what captures your attention. Appreciate growth and the struggle that comes with it.” She is feeling introspective these days, looking at the bigger picture and not focusing on obstacles … just appreciating, as much as possible, the lessons along the way.
She wants to inspire others to never stop dreaming or creating or rejecting perceived limitations. It’s when she followed her passion that the pieces of her dream started coming together. She met Adnen. They shared a love of food, and they took a risk on business and family.
- Lemon Cake (see recipe below)
- 2 cups mixture of berries (strawberries, hulled & quartered, blueberries and raspberries)
- 4 tablespoons honey, divided
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons rose water
- 1 cup heavy cream (whip in bowl with a whisk until it forms soft peaks)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (softened)
- pistachios, toasted and chopped (for topping)
Make lemon cake, following directions below. Cube or crumble cake. Set aside. Mix berries, 2 tablespoons honey, molasses and rose water together. Set aside. Fold whipped cream, 2 tablespoons honey and lemon zest into softened mascarpone cheese. Set aside.
Build either a large trifle or mini trifle, starting with cubed or crumbled lemon cake. Then add macerated berries. Top with mascarpone cream. Repeat layers. Top with pistachios.
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup olive oil (mild flavor)
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1½ cup flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a 9-by-5-inch pan with olive oil and set aside. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar and yogurt; whisk until smooth. Continue whisking and add olive oil and lemon zest and juice. Whisk remaining dry ingredients together, and slowly whisk into the wet mixture until combined. Be careful not to overmix. Add batter to baking pan. Smooth top as needed. Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until center is firm. Insert a toothpick in the center to test. Let cool.
Their interest in exploring different cuisines, spices and ways to connect with the community is all part of the big vision. Food culture speaks to them, guides them and provides some insight into the people that created the cuisine. But it’s all a journey that opens the soul, like traveling, reaching into a culture through food or cuisine to expand our worldview.
As Marcel Proust wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Lenora hopes that in these challenging times we reach out and connect with others, share our passions and lift each other. Adnen and Lenora love the culinary industry because they see food as a comforting, connecting force.
The newest endeavor is now their home away from home. They want to share all the passion, joy and creativity that they have found in food. The curated, multi-ethnic menu blends cuisines and tastes, drawing on all their food memories and curiosities—Tunisian, African, Turkish, Italian, Asian, French, Southern. The options are unlimited. Warming tabil spice blend, homey potpies, family meals and newly inspired dishes are waiting to be savored and shared.
Enjoy these favorite recipes from Lenora and Adnen at your own home. They invite the community to join them in eating well and dreaming big for the future.