a few months back, when the days were much warmer and we could have backyard picnics, matt and i hosted a birthday dinner party. we were hosting what grew into a feast of lebanese food. while matt smoked lamb for kebabs and made mixed drinks, i was in charge of everything surrounding said kebabs. that meant heaping bowls of smooth hummus, fresh, lemony tabbouleh and my take on a summer panzanella salad. the salad was (biased as i am) delicious in its own right, filled with peaches, goat cheese, poppyseed dressing and buttery, crunchy toasted bread. but, in retrospect, we had a definite theme going on and since we *needed* a flavorful bread salad....how was fattoush not on the menu?
have you heard of fattoush? hailing from the middle east, fattoush is a fresh, crunchy and crisp salad. the "fresh" and "crisp" comes from fresh vegetables and herbs, and the "crunch" from dried or toasted pita. the recipe i've included here is adapted from one published in a cookbook handed down by my family, called "the art of syrian cookery." the ingredients in that recipe are fairly simple, calling for just syrian bread, green onions, cucumber, lemon, olive oil and a mix of parsley, thyme and mint.
in my version, i've added in colorful cherry tomatoes, sumac (more on that later) and pomegranate molasses. pomegranate molasses is something i've recently gotten into in a big way ever since discovering muhammara. in this recipe, it adds a perfect tang to complement the vegetables. i really love the pomegranate molasses recipe by tori avey!
what sets fattoush apart from other salads is 1) its crunchy bites of dried or toasted pita and 2) its sumac dressing. sumac is irreplaceable in this recipe, but once you have your first taste of it, i have a feeling you'll find it's irreplaceable in many recipes you never knew needed it. sumac actually comes from dried berries, and the flavor itself is tangy, sour and lemony and the color is a beautiful, deep red. the flavor and color of sumac pops off the palate and plate.
fattoush makes for a wonderful accompaniment to deliciously aromatic meats, like a kibbeh or chicken shawarma. a perfect bite of food - in my opinion - is fattoush, chicken shawarma and hummus. if you are serving this at a dinner party, hold off on adding the dressing and toasted pita until about 15 minutes before you serve. that will allow the pita to soak in the dressing to soften a bit, but won't totally drench it.
what you'll need:
2 small pitas, torn into bite-size pieces
1 persian cucumber, quartered
8 cherry heirloom tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, removed from stem
kosher salt, to taste
sumac, to taste
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
what you'll do:
- preheat oven to 350° fahrenheit. place bite-size pieces of fresh pita on baking sheet and place in oven. bake for 11 - 12 minutes, until golden brown and crispy, but not burnt. set aside to cool.
- in large bowl, toss cucumber, tomatoes, green onion, fresh mint, parsley and thyme with a few pinches of kosher salt and sumac, to taste. set aside.
- in small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients.
- drizzle over vegetables and herbs, mixing in toasted pita chips. adjust salt, pepper and sumac to taste.