The recipes I’ve written out since I’ve started my Foodie Fridays have been more “Western”. I thought that today, I would share my recipe for fattoush. This is a very popular Levantine salad, and while I am not of Levantine origin this type of Arabic food has been part of my upbringing. Any good international buffet would have and I almost always order it when I go to an Arabic restaurant (and so does my family). I always saw it as inaccessible, too hard and something I wouldn’t be able to make at home.
But then I tried and voila! It was actually easy! There are two key ingredients for fattoush: pita bread and pomegranate molasses. Without either of these ingredients, you’ve just got a salad. I appreciate it’s not something most people will have in their cupboards, but I encourage you to buy a bottle of pomegranate molasses. It lasts a long time and it adds an amazing flavour to all kinds of things: chicken, vegetables, salad dressings, etc. As I explained in my post last week, pomegranate molasses is being used in a lot more recipes now – the flavour is “trendy”! Find an Arabic/Middle Eastern speciality shop and you will find both pita bread and the molasses.
Pita bread also freezes well, when I buy a pack I use one and then put the rest in the freezer. Try to find the thinnest bread possible. I’ve noticed in supermarkets in the US and UK the pita bread is very thick, the thinner the bread the easier it is to crisp up. Also, please don’t call it “khobez bread”. I’ve seen it referenced that way on some menus. Khobez just means bread in Arabic. While we’re at it, don’t say “naan bread” or “chai tea” either for the same reason (Hindi/Urdu words for bread and tea respectively).
Sumac is also an important spice that needs to be added to the dressing. I think you could probably get away without it, but it won’t taste the same. Sumac is another store-cupboard ingredient. You won’t use it everyday, but it keeps well and adds complex flavours to meats and salads. Another “trendy” ingredient!
The salad originated from Lebanon and apparently was started as a way to use left over day old bread. Lebanese farmers would fry the bread and use whatever herbs and vegetables were in season to make the salad.
Those who know me well, know that I don’t like to eat healthy. I really don’t like salads. This However, last year I saw a nutritionist and completely changed my diet. I don’t like saying I went on a diet, because I didn’t, I just got a meal plan that broke down what I should be eating and in what quantities. I started clean eating. I started liking salad after forcing myself to eat them more regularly. But even before all of this, I loved fattoush. It’s the only salad I truly like (probably because it has fried bread in it!). Fun fact: my husband gave me the nickname “bread killer” when we first got married because on our honeymoon to Greece (where they serve a complimentary bread basket at most restaurants) I would eat most of the bread!
The beauty of this salad is you can chop and change as you like. For example, carrots are not usually included but when I need to use up my carrots I toss them in! When I’m not sure how to use up my veggies, I come back to this recipe. If you don’t like a certain ingredient (I don’t love green peppers), you can leave it out. Being married to a South Asian man, I add chillis to everything now. I had one big chilli I needed to use up, so I decided to chop it finely and add it to the salad. A spicy fattoush salad?! Yes, total blasphemy! I shuddered when I added it. But my husband really liked the kick!
Simple Fattoush Salad
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
Quantities are for 2-3 people. You can scale up/scale down as necessary.
For the salad:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pita bread (cut into single layer triangles or squares)
- 1/2 head of lettuce (chopped)
- 1/2 English cucumber or two small cucumbers (chopped)
- 2 tomatoes (chopped)
- 2 carrots, optional: I like to use up my carrots in this recipe (chopped)
- 1 green pepper (chopped)
- 2 spring onions (chopped)
- 2 radishes (I never have any, but it’s a good addition) (sliced, stems removed)
- Handful of parsley (chopped)
For the dressing:
- 3 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin if you have it!)
- 2.5 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 tsp of mint (fresh or dried)
- Black pepper to taste
- Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or see tip* below.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat, cut your pita bread into small pieces while the oil heats up. Add the bread and season with salt and pepper and fry for about 5-7 minutes until browned, stirring occasionally so they brown evenly. Once done, place in a separate bowl to cool.
- Mix all the salad ingredients in a salad bowl, add the dressing and toasted pita on top and mix well. I avoid mixing the bread in the salad so it doesn’t get soggy. If you do mix everything make sure to save a few pieces to spread on top!
- *if you want to prepare the salad in advance you can also mix the dressing ingredients in your salad bowl and place the veggies on top without mixing anything until you are ready to serve. That way, the salad won’t get soggy and you will have one less bowl to clean!
- I tend to use two pieces of pita bread so I have more “pita crisps” leftover to snack on (once you pop you just can’t stop!) or for another salad.
- Keep leftover toasted bread in a bowl and cover with cling film. It should stay fresh and crispy for 2-3 days.
Did you try this recipe? Let me know if you liked it in the comments or by email!