Joyce Goldstein Author, Mediterranean Fresh (W.W. Norton, 2008) (August 2, 2008).
Fattoush was the most requested summer salad at my restaurant, Square One. Not just our customers, but our staff would start requesting it in late June. I’d say, “please be patient. We have to wait until the tomatoes are perfect, ripe and perfumed.” Fattoush is a Lebanese variation of tabbouleh, the classic Middle Eastern wheat salad, but instead of using bulgur, it uses toasted pita bread. Fatta means torn into pieces which is what we do with the bread. I love the textures in this salad and would suggest, for full crunch effect, that you dress it just before serving time so the bread does not become soggy. Like tabbouleh it typically takes a lemon and olive oil dressing, usually enhanced with tart sumac, and lots of fresh mint and parsley. Adding the fleshy purslane and ground sumac is optional as they are not readily found in many markets. They are, however, worth seeking out. Purslane is now the “gourmet” weed and is sold at my Farmers’ Market. Sumac is available at stores that specialize in Middle Eastern food or online from websites such as Penzeys.com or Vannsspices.com.
While not authentic, you can extend this salad by adding strips of cooked chicken or lamb, or even a few shrimp if you want to turn it into a full meal. Under a pan-Mediterranean umbrella, where ingredients from the region may be used, proprietary to the recipe or not, you’ll find feta cheese added to fattoush, again, not authentic, but tasty.
4 large or 8 small pita breads
2 ½ to 3 cups diced tomato (½ -inch dice)
2 cups diced cucumber (peeled and seeded if necessary, ½-inch dice)
½ cup very finely diced red onion
6 tablespoons finely chopped green onions, including tender green tops
½ cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
4 cups loosely packed romaine lettuce strips (1-inch wide)
2 cups chopped purslane (optional)
About 1 to 1½ cups classic citrus dressing
2 teaspoons ground sumac (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pita breads on a baking sheet and bake until dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, break into large bite size pieces.
- In a small bowl whisk together the dressing and sumac, if using, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large salad bowl combine the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, green onion, mint and parsley with some of the dressing. Add the pita pieces, romaine, and purslane, if using, and toss with the remaining dressing.
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