Continuing on the Moroccan theme, how about Fattoush? Fa-waht? you may ask. Fattoush is an amazing salad whose star ingredient is pita bread. The version I make has some of the same ingredients as a Greek salad (tomatoes, olives, cucumber, feta cheese), but the flavor is more complex due to an incredible condiment called za’atar.
Za’atar is used throughout North African and Middle Eastern cooking and the ingredients and their quantities vary slightly. The one I make uses fresh thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac. Sumac is a powder make from a ground dried berry and it has an incredible blood red color and slightly sour yet fruity flavor. The three things together taste incredible – piney thyme, sour sumac, and nutty sesame seeds – and it is not unusual to see it stirred into olive oil for dunking bread and vegetables into. In this recipe, you sprinkle it over pita bread halves that have been brushed with olive oil, and put the bread in the oven. The smell is of baking bread, nuts and a bit of sour. Yum.
Once out of the oven and cool, the pita halves get broken into irregular pieces and, eventually, tossed into the salad. The longer they sit in it, the more tender they get so if you don’t want a lot of crunch, allow the salad to sit for half an hour. Want more crunch? Serve it right away. You can always make extra baked pita to dip in your baba ghanouj.
This recipe originally comes from Gourmet Magazine, but I have streamlined it significantly. They tell you to marinate olives for several days and then use the marinade for a dressing. Instead, I just use Kalamata olives and make a very simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. If you live in the Seattle area, you can find sumac at Market Spice in the Pike Place Market. If not, you might be able to find it at Whole Foods (either in spices or in the bulk section) and you can certainly order it online at Penzey’s.
Fattoush (Pita Bread Salad)
2 tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
2 tsp. ground sumac
1/2 tsp. salt
For Pita Toasts:
4 6-inch pita loaves with pockets, split horizontally
Olive oil for brushing
2 tbsp. za’atar
4 hearts of romaine, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 seedless (or English) cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
3/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
3 tbsp. za’atar
Juice of one lemon
Make za’atar: Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. (Za’atar keeps, chilled in a sealed plastic bag, 1 week.)
Make pita toasts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush rough sides of pita halves with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tbsp. of the za’atar. Arrange halves, oiled side up, on 2 baking sheets and bake in oven until crisp and pale golden, about 10 minutes. Cool on rack. Once cool, bread into irregular large pieces. (Can be made one day ahead. Store in ziploc bag.)
Make salad: Place lettuce, tomatoes, olives, cucumber, pita toasts, feta cheese, and the remaining za’atar in a large salad bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil and pour the lemon juice over. Toss the salad and taste. Add more lemon juice as needed.