Sunday, July 26, 2009
For my first ever BeckysBaking blog post I decided to post a recipe near and dear to my heart. I grew up in Michigan outside of a city called Dearborn which has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Little Lebanon’. While dating my husband we ate at some of the best Arab restaurants in Dearborn and maybe in the entire United States.
One of my favorite things to order was Fattoush, it's traditionally made in the Middle East as a tasty way to use up stale pita bread. It’s healthy, refreshing and incredibly flavorful. My life was wonderful until I moved to Arizona and realized with horror that their was no decent Fattoush to be found in the entire state. I would be at home planning my next meal and nothing roused my appetite except the thought of Fattoush. Just contemplating the delicious crispness of the lettuce paired with the fried pita bread and the savory dressing would have me drooling uncontrollably.
Driven by desperation I attempted to recreate the salad I loved. My first two attempts at formulating a recipe for Fattoush were not satisfactory but the third time was the charm and my tastebuds rejoiced. It’s about as close to the real thing that you can find outside of an authentic, high quality Arabic restaurant and it’s incredibly delicious. I don’t even really like salad especially not enough to crave it, yet I adore this. So come on give it a try! I promise it won’t disappoint you.
What you need:
Sumac is a seasoning made from ground up sumac berries used in Middle Eastern cooking (no it’s not poisonous, I swear!). It has a really odd bitter, salty taste which I love. In my opinion Sumac is pretty darn essential to a good Fattoush. If you can’t find it the salad will still be very tasty but it won’t be an authentic Fattoush. You can find a decent sized bag for cheap at most Middle Eastern grocers. To find a Middle Eastern grocer near you go to www.zabihah.com
Combine all of the ingredients in the second picture and pulse in the food processor until it’s well combined. To be honest the dressing isn’t going to be pretty and it doesn’t even taste that great on its own. I am just forewarning you all before you stop at this step and pitch the dressing because it tastes funny. As wrong as this sounds it's going to taste odd and that's okay. I pinky swear it is. The smell though will be vibrant and garlicky so give it a taste, if it’s too sour add a bit more sugar or if you want a more intense flavor add more garlic, salt or mint. The dressing needs to sit and let all of the components meld and dance together for a few hours in the fridge. Once it’s drizzled on the salad and combined with the fried pita bread it will become an amazingly delicious metamorphosis. Trust me on this.
I like to use the combo of veggies above but you can do anything that will make your heart happy. The only essentials are the tomatoes, parsley, cucumbers and romaine so go ahead and be creative. Now chop up your choice of veggies, combine them well and put the salad bowl in the fridge to get nice and chilly. The only thing worse than bad Fattoush is good Fattoush that is served lukewarm.
Finally you are going to fry up some pita bread. If you have the ability, try to buy Arabic Pita bread. It’s called Khobs or Aish in Arabic and it’s thinner and larger than the typical pocket pita bread you find in the U.S. supermarkets. If you can’t find it pita pockets will work fine, just pull the layers apart before frying. You can try and bake the bread in the oven to be more healthy but it’s just not the same. I swear it’s not and trust me you want the full, delicious, crunchy experience.
I don’t have a deep fryer so I just take a pan and fill it up with vegetable or canola oil and tear the bread into 1” pieces and fry them in the oil until they are golden. Pat the oil off of the pitas with a paper towel and let them cool completely. The awesome thing about these little chips is that they will keep for a very long time. I can make them up and store them in a Ziploc baggie in the fridge for around a month and they remain crisp and tasty.
Once your salad and dressing are cold combine the dressing, pita chips and salad then serve immediately. You’ll also want to sprinkle some sumac over the top as a garnish.
I make up the Fattoush in single servings when I want to eat so that I don’t waste any of this lovely creation. The fried bread, like all good things has a short life once it gets drenched in the delicious dressing. I recommend the single serving method but if you are having company it’s a really pretty and impressive salad to serve up in a big, fancy bowl with the beautiful red Sumac sprinkled over the top.
2 bunches of Romaine lettuce
2 salad cucumbers
2 green peppers
1/4 of a Sweet yellow onion
1 bunch parsley
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice about 3-4 lemons
2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp. dried mint
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
10 twists of a pepper shaker (about 1/4 tsp.) fresh ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp. Sumac
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley (just grab a handful, don't worry about only getting the leaves. Some stems are fine because they'll be chopped up super tiny in the food processor)
2 cups canola oil
2 large Arabic pitas torn into 1" pieces
Chop up the salad fixings and combine well, put in the refrigerator to get cold. Take the dressing ingredients and place them all in a food processor. Process until the ingredients are well combined and their are no large pieces. Place into a container and let sit in the refrigerator for two hours. Heat the canola oil in a pan until the oil is rippling, place the pitas into the hot oil and fry them until they are a golden brown. Let them drain on a paper towel. When they are cool place them in a ziploc bag and store them in the refrigerator.
To prepare the salad, toss the dressing with the salad mixture and then top with a generous helping of the fried pita chips. Sprinkle sumac generously over the top. Enjoy!