Monday, July 9, 2012

Fattoush Salad with Lemon Balsamic Dressing

Earlier I mentioned that the only decent restaurant in Mankato is a Vietnamese restaurant which is run by a very nice fellow (Pho Saigon). When I said that, I forgot that there is also a great Lebanese restaurant here...actually two because the man who runs the good Lebanese restaurant also has a spot at the food court in the mall (so sad when the third best restaurant in your town is in the food court at the mall). I probably forgot about the good Lebanese restaurant because it's where my husband and I eat when we go out on a date (Olives). Next month will mark the two year anniversary of our last date, not because we don't still totally dig each other, but because we had our third daughter and she does not yet approve of baby sitters.

In any case, a lot of the main dishes at the good Lebanese restaurant in town are very meaty which is a problem for a vegan. But they have a "Fattoush Salad" on the menu that I fell in love with the first time I tried it. I know, a recipe for a salad, lame. But this salad is special. I could not duplicate it no matter how hard I tried until I figured out that the rusty red specks in the dressing were sumac. I'd never heard of it before except as a poisonous tree in the weeds behind the house I grew up in that I was supposed to stay away from. But it turns out sumac is a lovely lemony...spice? that has an almost rubbery texture.I found it at a specialty spice store but I've also seen it in various ethnic grocery stores and online.

I believe Fattoush means something along the lines of crushed up bread because you're supposed to use stale pita bread along with various other ingredients. I'm sure there are as many Fattoush recipes as there are home cooks in Lebanon, here's one from a white girl in Mankato:

For the Dressing:
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 juicy lemon
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegr
1 Tbsp. sumac
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic, pressed (optional)

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Don't use the garlic if you're sensitive to raw garlic or aren't in the mood for it

For the Salad:
2 whole wheat pitas
extra virgin olive oil
1-2 hearts of romaine, washed & chopped (choose the amount depending on how lettucy you want it and what you have in your fridge)
2-3 Persian cucumbers or 1 small English cucumber, diced
1 red and 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, 1" dice
1 small red onion, diced
1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives, sliced

1) Preheat the oven to 350. Split the pitas open so there are 4 thin rounds. Brush each round with olive oil and sprinkle with a little sumac. Place flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes, or until crispy but not burnt. Let them cool and then break them into bite sized pieces with your hands and set them aside.

2) Wash and chop all of the vegetables and toss them together in a large know, make a salad.

3) Do not add the pita pieces until just before serving or they'll get soggy. To serve, add the pita bits and the dressing and toss.

This makes a large salad, you could bring it to a party. When I make it for just my husband and I, I mix it together with the dressing and pitas in smaller batches and we can get several salads each out of the recipe.

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