Lebanese Cuisine — Fattoush: Bread Salad

Fattoush (recipe follows), the Lebanese salad of diced vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread, is gaining in worldwide exposure of late, now widely available at most Middle Eastern (and a lot of Greek and Turkish) restaurants.  It is our impression that most Americans, though, are unfamiliar with fattoush and its crispy texture and bright, fresh flavors.  We would like to do our part, however small, to change that.

More Lebanese dishes on The World Cup of Food:

  • Tabbouleh, bulgur and parsley salad (with Lebanese cuisine overview)

Fattoush is perhaps the most popular of the fattat, a category of Lebanese foods that uses old bread as a foundation.  Bread is served at every meal in Lebanon, usually in the form of either the local Lebanese flatbreads or pitas.  All that demand for bread means that plenty is made every day, and uses for the old stuff were needed to avoid waste.

The ingredients used in a fattoush are up to the whims of the cook.  Almost always included are cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac, a sour spice made from the dried, crushed fruits of the sumac bush.  Additional options include radishes, parsley, mint, peppers, olives, or just about anything else available.  We used the version presented in the excellent From the Lands of Figs and Olives: Over 300 Delicious and Unusual Recipes from the Middle East and North Africa by Habeeb Salloum and James Peters, our go-to reference for all things Middle Eastern and North African, as a guide, producing a version that hits all the key points without overcomplicating things.

Fattoush

adapted from From the Lands of Figs and Olives: Over 300 Delicious and Unusual Recipes from the Middle East and North Africa by Habeeb Salloum and James Peters

SERVES 4 TO 6

  • 2 pita breads, either homemade (we use the King Arthur Flour whole wheat recipe) or store-bought, toasted in the oven and broken into small pieces
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 2 Tbs minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Fattoush is another very simple Lebanese salad.  Most of the effort was devoted to cutting the vegetables, which were mixed together with all the other ingredients except for the toasted bread:

fattoushvegetables
This step can be done in advance, and doing so will allow the flavors to marry and for the vegetables to soften slightly.

Waiting until just before serving, in order to preserve its crispy texture, the bread was added and tossed to coat with the juices from the mixed vegetables:

fattoushmixed

That’s it!  Just cut, mix, and enjoy!

Fattoush is best either right away, when the bread is still crispy, or as leftovers the next day, when the bread has absorbed all the juices from the vegetables.  The crispy version is bold, flavorful, and provides some much-needed crunch to a meal.  The leftover version is subdued slightly in flavor but more complex, as the garlic and herbs used have had a chance to interact with the other ingredients.  Either way, fattoush requires almost zero effort to make and goes great alongside grilled meats or as an appetizer scooped on to fresh pitas.

 

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