Having previously worked at a Lebanese restaurant, I knew about fattoush salad, a fresh and vibrant dish made very texturally-pleasing through the addition of crunchy, crumbled pita. This restaurant, however, was famous for a deep-fried cauliflower dish that by far overshadowed menu items that contained the word “salad” in them. As a result, I never really gave fattoush salad the praise that it rightfully deserved, so consider this my repentance. Fattoush manages to walk the line between overtly healthful and deeply satisfying, two parameters that do not often cross one another. I’m sure the ratio of pita to greens has something to do with it (this is NOT a mere smattering of pita chips, but something more akin to a downpour of pita).
A note before you make your shopping list: this recipe does contain some hard-to-source ingredients, though mainly if you don’t live anywhere with Middle Eastern shops (but if you DO, these are VERY easy to find). Should you be unable to find pomegranate molasses, try using an equal portion of good balsamic vinegar and maybe increase the lemon juice by another squeeze or two. Sumac is a bit of a trickier substitute, but your best bet in a state of desperation would likely be a very heavy dose of lemon juice and grated zest. Sumac is a ground berry very commonly found in Middle Eastern cooking and it carries a powerfully tart punch. Nothing will entirely substitute it, but anything that gives a strong hit of acidity would be fair game.
BA’s Best: Fattoush Salad
Taken directly from BA’s Best arsenal, with some adaptations
4 tsp ground sumac
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice + more to taste
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp dried mint
¾ cup olive oil
2 8-inch pita breads, torn in half and toasted until lightly golden (~8-10 minutes) in a 350 degree oven, then broken into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup olive oil
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 lb baby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 head Romaine lettuce, sliced into ¾-inch ribbons (bottom knob discarded)
1 cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
Soak the sumac in 4 tsp water for 15 minutes. Combine the soaked sumac (and any remaining liquid) with the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, vinegar, and dried mint in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream until well-blended. Season with salt to taste, then add more lemon juice if desired. I found that the dressing was perfect as written, but some tastes may lean more toward the acidic. Set aside and whisk well prior to using.
Toss the toasted and broken-up pita pieces with ¼ cup olive oil to coat. Season the pita to taste with salt. To assemble the salad, gently toss the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, Romaine, parsley, and mint leaves together in a large bowl or platter. Add about half of the dressing to lightly coat the veggies. Season the salad with salt, then scatter the pita “chips” generously overtop. Drizzle with more dressing if desired. Feel virtuous and use it as an excuse to pair this with a mountain of something fried and exquisite.