Unlike hummus, baklava or even falafel, fattoush is a word that hasn’t quite made it into the common food vocabulary. Like the other foods mentioned, fattoush is an important dish in the cuisine of Levant – a broad and imprecise area that includes much of the eastern Mediterranean. The word Levant doesn’t get used so much anymore in English – apparently the French still like it, though I didn’t actually ask them – and, according to an article on PRI.org, “It literally means “the rising,” referring to the land where the sun rises. If you’re in France, in the western Mediterranean, that would make sense as a way to describe the eastern Mediterranean.”
And all of that makes perfect sense if you’ve ever eaten fattoush; it’s a simple, summery feast of color, flavor and texture that brings a lot of the rising sun into each bite.
Fattoush is part of a larger group of dishes, like panzanella, that are basically bread salads, all born of frugal food sense and a no-waste kitchen economy. These dishes stretch the dough, literally and figuratively, to make stale bread not only useful but delicious. The secret starts in the toasting, of course, but what happens after is the real magic – the kind that comes from sunshine.
Good fattoush is simple and combines crispy pita, olive oil, tomatoes, and cucumber. There are other ways to dress up the salad, but those four essentials are what make or break the dish. The key is freshness – not only of the produce but of the composition itself. Sure the pita can be stale, but it must be freshly toasted – and the whole salad has to be tossed together just before serving so the bread doesn’t turn to mush.
When it’s made correctly, it’s a dish that you can eat like nachos – picking up pieces of pita piled high with summer veg and dripping with olive oil. The combination of cool, crisp cucumbers, and tomatoes ripe from the vine slick with the sun-packed flavor of oil makes for a textural match made in food heaven when joined in a single bite with the crunch of toasted pita.
It’s a remarkable dish that’s straightforward, pantry friendly, and simple but all the more elegant because of that. It’s a feast for the eyes too: the colors are bright and shiny with oil and reflect the best rays of the summer sun.
If your appetite is activated now, just wait until Saturday when you tune in to WBIR’s Weekend Today. Mahasti is back on the air after a brief sabbatical, and she’ll show us all her secrets for one of her favorite warm weather meals. We hope you’ll tune in, and shortly thereafter, chow down!
Tomato Head’s Fattoush
2 cups quartered cucumbers
2 cups quartered or diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped onion
¾ cups crumbled feta cheese
1 TBL chopped mint
1 TBL fresh lemon juice
3 TBL olive oil
1 TBL Balsamic Vinegar
1.25 tsp salt
1.5 – 2 cups Stacy’s Pita Crisps
Place cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, feta, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic
vinegar, and salt in a large bowl and toss well. When ready to serve, add pita
crisps, toss and serve.
Serves 2-4 people