Fattoush: the Taste of Summer

Fattoush is a chopped salad of fresh vegetables and herbs that is very popular among Israelis and Palestinians.  They will eat it at every meal, including breakfast, and start experiencing fattoush withdrawal if they go for more than a day without it.

Fattoush can be simply undressed chopped vegetables, or a more elaborate dressed salad, such as this recipe which from the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, which is a Palestinian version of Italian bread salad.  It uses diced tomatoes, thinly sliced radishes, mini cucumbers and scallions, with coarsely chopped fresh mint and fresh parsley, all in a dressing of buttermilk, olive oil, garlic, cider vinegar, lemon juice, dried mint, salt and pepper.  It uses small pieces of stale pita like an Italian bread salad and is sprinkled with sumac powder.

Sumac has a sharp, slightly lemony taste that brightens whatever it garnishes.  It comes as a powder made from grinding the dried berries of a certain variety of the sumac plant.  Don’t leave it out; it makes this dish.  You can get sumac online or at Middle Eastern groceries.  You will find a lot of other uses for it.

I think of fattoush as the ultimate taste of summer, when locally grown veggies and herbs are at their peak of flavor.  This recipe for it is just scrumptious.  The field tomatoes are now ripe, replacing the hot house ones.  We have firm local garlic now, replacing that awful soft, sprouted garlic of winter and spring.  Time to make some fattoush!

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients for it arranged on my chopping block, which in the cooking world is called Mise En Place (French for “put in place’), a good idea to make sure you have everything you need before you start a dish.

They include:

Veggies and herbs:

  • 3 large tomatoes cut into 2/3 inch dice
  • 3 mini cucumbers, peeled and cut into 2/3 inch dice, or thinly sliced
  • 3 1/2 oz radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 oz fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1 oz fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

Dressing:

  • 1 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 T dried mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 T cider or white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

“Bread”;

  • 2 large stale Turkish flat bread or naan or pita, torn into small pieces

Garnish:

  • 1 T sumac or more to taste, to garnish
  • A little extra olive oil to drizzle over

Step by Step

Mix the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a large bowl:

Tear the pita into small pieces:

Chop the tomatoes and cukes into 2/3 inch dice (you can also slice the cukes thinly instead):

Thinly slice the radishes and green onions:

Coarsley chop the mint and parsley:

Put the veggies and the herbs into a colander on a plate as you go, to remove any excess liquid, so as not to dilute the dressing:

Put the pita pieces into the dressing:

Then add the chopped veggies and herbs:

Mix well and let sit for 10 minutes:

Transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates and sprinkle with the sumac and drizzle on a little more olive oil:

 

You should serve and eat this at room temperature as soon as you make it.  It does not keep particularly well.

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