Fattoush is an excellent salad for any season. In the summer, it’s light but filling. During the fall and winter months, it’s satisfying with a good hearty soup (especially lentil!) and because it’s tossed in a lemon dressing, the acidity rounds out a mild white fish like cod or tilapia well.
Today is about one week into Ramadan, a month of fasting from just before sunrise to sundown without any food, or even water. Fattoush makes a weekly, almost daily appearance at many a dinner, or iftar, table during Ramadan. Maybe it hits all the marks needed after about 15 hours without food or liquids. Fattoush’s simple vinaigrette gently reintroduces food into your system: lemon juice offers digestive benefits and immune support, and extra virgin olive oil helps restore energy and memory (read: long pauses to respond to simple questions halfway into a fasting day). Or, it’s just plain delicious – bread in salad, what’s not to love. Sarah shared her fattoush recipe with Olive & Heart as well as a reminder about traditional recipes that originated from a conscious effort not to waste food whenever possible.
My mother recalls being a child and watching her mother save bread to use in dishes like fatteh, a name derived from a colloquial Arabic word that means to “break apart” or “fragment”. A number of dishes in Arabic cuisine were created to save stale bread from going to waste, particularly various fattehs that range from cold to hot, vegetarian to meat. All include a layer of dried out or nearly stale bread. In the same way dry toast or cornbread is excellent for making a good stuffing, pita bread is repurposed into some of my favorite dishes, and adds a delightfully crunchy and toasty taste to fattoush.
You don’t need to wait for pita bread to get stale. Below are ways to toast pita into Middle-Eastern croutons that absorb the seasoning and juices in fattoush.
Pita Bread Round, 1 cut in half
Tomatoes, 2 to 3
Persian cucumbers, 1 to 2
Red Bell Pepper, 1 chopped
Red onion, 1/4 sliced
Green onion, 1 stalk
Radishes, 2 to 3
Fresh mint leaves, from a few sprigs
Za’atar, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
Sumac, pinch to 1/4 teaspoon (optional)
Lemon, 1 juiced
Pomegranate Molasses, 1 teaspoon
Salt, to taste
I made this version sans lettuce, but help yourself to adding chopped lettuce if you desire a traditional salad base.
Chop vegetables and place in serving bowl. In a separate, small bowl combine the olive oil, lemon and pomegranate molasses. Salt the mixture to your liking, stir and set aside until serving time.
To prepare crunchy pita bread, place halves (crescent shape after cutting a round) into a toaster on a high setting to make crisp. Remove from toaster and break apart either directly over the prepared vegetable mixture, or set aside, as some prefer to save the pita until the very last step when the salad is fully tossed with the vinaigrette. This helps preserve crunchiness. To make a large quantity, instead of using a toaster, cut several pita rounds into small squares and spread over a cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and bake at 350° for about 15 minutes or until the pieces begin to look toasted or hardened.
There’s another less than healthy, but what-isn’t-good-fried method to prepare pita crisps. Fry the bread by pouring vegetable oil into a saucepan over heat. When you scoop the fried bread out of the hot oil, place on a mesh strainer or cooking net to drain excess oil and cool.
When it’s time to serve, toss the vegetables, vinaigrette, za’atar and if you want yet even more tang, sumac. Finally, gently fold in the toasted or fried pita. Serve fattoush family style or plate alongside a main course. Sahtain!