Ten days into 2011 and my resolve to eat healthier has not yet abandoned me completely, except for the short-lived Ferrero Rocher that I found in my jacket pocket this afternoon. In addition to starting a 21-day yoga challenge today to whip myself into shape, tonight I also decided to delve into my ancestry for a healthy and creative salad – Fattoosh. I don’t normally get much satisfaction from eating salads; they are too light and unfilling, too limp and without personality, and they always leave me with dressing down my shirt – though this Levantine dish which sounds liked a sneeze makes other salads wilt in shame. The ingredient list for this salad reads very much like that for its close relative, tabouli (also recommended), except Fattoosh uses romaine lettuce, ground sumac for tartness and hardened pieces of pita bread crumbled in, originally conceived as a practical use for stale bread besides using it as a middle eastern frisbee.
Sumac is an ingredient that is hard to come by here in Victoria – at least I haven’t found it – though you may be in luck if you live near a middle eastern grocer. Sumac always makes me think about an ill-planned entrepreneurial endeavour from my high school days, when my best friend Jon and I ground up the fuzzy red berries from the sumac tree in my backyard, rolled them up in cigarette paper, and sold them to our grade 8 friends under the brand name “Smacs”. They tasted pleasantly sour and fruity when inhaled, though the trend never caught on with our peers. I wouldn’t advise trying this at home, but I do highly recommend that you add this spice to your kitchen collection for the purpose of cooking. If you can’t find it, I’ve added a variation to the recipe using lemon zest, which tastes close enough.
Preparation: 20 mins
Cook time: 6-8 minutes
2 white bread pitas, whole
3 tbsp ground sumac (or if you can’t find this, try 2-3 tbsp of grated lemon peel for the same sour flavour)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 cups romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
2 cups tomatos, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mint, chopped
1 1/2 cups cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
2/3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Juice from 1 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Place pitas on a baking sheet and bake for 6 – 8 minutes or until toasted and hard. Break into bite-sized pieces.
3. Combine the pita pieces, sumac (or lemon zest) and oil in large bowl and toss well until pita is coated completely. Add lettuce and remaining ingredients except lemon juice. Toss well. Before serving, drizzle with lemon juice. As the pita will begin to get soggy in the oil and juice after about an hour, it is best not to prepare this salad too long in advance.