So, I have a bit of a girl confession. I tend to be one of those people that rarely orders salad when I’m dining out. I know. Given the dining stereotype, that may be a strange thing to admit…or not if you’re not in favour of that stereotype I just find that I make delicious salads at home and tend to order things when I’m dining out that are tedious for me to make (like sushi) and things I have yet to sample.
That said, this particular salad is one that I always — always! — order when I’m out eating at Middle-eastern restaurants. Fattoush is a Lebanese salad made with lettuce, vegetables, herbs and — the best part — toasted or fried pita bread, which act like croutons in this salad. The dressing is tart and wonderful with the addition of lemon and sumac (a reddish-purple powder which is tart and come from a fruit plant) This version if from an amazing lebanese restaurant “Paramount Fine Foods” and it doesn’t disappoint!
The vegetables should be cut in large, rustic chunks (about 1-inch). You can use any colour bell peppers you have: red, yellow, orange — or a combination of all! The recipe calls for 1 radish but I’ve added 2 small radish and I’ve increased the amount of cucumber used for extra freshness!
This is a fantastic way to utilize stale pita. (You can also bake these up as a snack and dip them in hummus!) The restaurant deep-fries their pita chips but I prefer to bake mine. I’m often a proponent for frying-being-better-than-baking when it come to some delicious little savoury things, but I find that baking these chips gives them the wonderful flavour of the olive oil and makes them super crispy!
You’ll have to decide how much lemon you want in the dressing (1/4 cup to 1/2 cup) and remember to add it slowly and taste along the way. I found that adding 1/4 cup of lemon juice which the restaurant’s recipe called for, was too tart for my likely so I’ve decided to add 1/8 cup instead. Sumac gives fattoush its distinctive tart/sour taste as well so when the lemon and sumac mix, the tartness of the dressing is almost twice as much so mix your dressing carefully to avoid too much acidity. Also, you can use fresh or dried mint, but I find dried mint actually tastes more authentic in this salad.
1 pita bread (about 10 inches/25 cm)
Extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups romaine lettuce, chopped (1 jumbo romaine heart)
1 tomato, chopped (or 10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half)
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
3-inch (5-cm) piece English cucumber, halved, thinly sliced in half moons
2 small radish, halved, thinly sliced into half moons
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
1/2 cup curly parsley, finely chopped (about a quarter of a bunch)
1/8-1/4 cup (30-60 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground sumac
2 teaspoons (10 ml) dried mint (or very finely chopped fresh mint)
Pita Chips: Carefully separate the pita into 2 large circles. Place on top of each other on cutting board. Cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) squares. Alternatively, use clean scissors or cooking shears to cut the pieces of pita. Spread the pieces in a single layer on baking sheet lined with foil (to make for easier clean-up). Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in preheated 375°F (190°C) oven 6-7 minutes or until browned and crisp. Set aside to cool the pitas. (Store in airtight container if not using immediately.)
For the Salad: In medium mixing bowl, combine romaine, tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, radish, onion and parsley. Toss well.
In small bowl, whisk lemon (add the 1/8 cup first then taste – if the lemon is very acidic, there is no need to add the other 1/8 cup). Then add the oil, sumac and mint. Add to salad; Toss well. Add pita chips. Toss well. Serve immediately so the pita will remain crispy.
Yield: 4 to 6 side servings