Fattoush salad
FoodRefreshing on a warm day

Fattoush salad

This salad is chock-full of many vegetables and herbs like fresh mint, parsley and thyme.

Fattoush salad (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Fattoush salad (Photo by Jessica Grann)

We enjoy grilling and eating outside once the weather turns warm, and grilling season means tons of fresh salads to go along with our main course.

Fattoush is one of my all-time favorites. It’s chock-full of many vegetables and herbs like fresh mint, parsley and thyme.

Fattoush salad is incredibly refreshing, and the special treat on top is toasted pita. The reason this salad was created was to use up extra stale pita. It’s the Mediterranean version of croutons, and who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of seasoned bread on a salad?

What I love about this salad is that it’s made from vegetables that most people have on hand. Every time I write a recipe that uses fresh herbs, I encourage readers to keep a few pots or a small kitchen herb garden outside so they have abundant and affordable fresh herbs handy. I was blessed to get beautiful fresh herb plants from my local farmers market last week, and each plant costs less than one little packet of herbs from the store. Even if you’re not much of a gardener, it’s worth a try — you will cook with herbs much more if you have them on hand. I’m including a fresh vinaigrette dressing recipe, although I only use about half of the dressing on the salad. You can add it to another salad the following day.

Sumac is the secret flavor in this dish. It’s slightly pungent and reminds me a little of tangy lemon juice, but it’s a bit different.

Traditionally this salad uses purslane as an added green, but it’s hard to find. Every time I go to a special store I search for it, but I’ve yet to find it. If anyone knows where to buy it, feel free to reach out to me. You can substitute fresh arugula, spinach or even watercress. My first memory of watercress was of my mother picking it from a stream behind our home when I was young. I refused to eat it, and boy, did I miss out.

You can prepare this salad hours in advance, but don’t dress it until just before serving.


For the toasted pita:

1 large pita
2 teaspoons olive oil
A sprinkle of sea salt
A sprinkle of sumac

For the vinaigrette:
2 smashed or minced large garlic cloves
¼ cup good-quality olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt
A pinch of black pepper
1 teaspoon sumac
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat parsley
2 teaspoons fresh mint
1 tablespoon lemon thyme
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon honey (optional)

For the salad:

2 heads romaine lettuce, washed, dried and gently torn by hand
1 large English cucumber or 6 Persian cucumbers
2 large tomatoes or 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 ½ cups chopped bell pepper; use red, orange, yellow or a mix
6-8 radishes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 cup arugula, watercress, fresh spinach or purslane
3 scallions, white and light green parts
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme leaves

Wash and check the lettuce, then let it air dry. You can do this hours ahead of time to make work easier in the evening. This recipe also calls for a lot of fresh herbs, so you can wash and set those aside to dry as well. You can also make the dressing ahead of time: Put all the ingredients into a Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it well for about 30 seconds. You can leave this on the counter until you’re ready to dress the salad — just give it a few good shakes before you add it to the bowl.

Set the oven to 400 F to toast the pita.

Insert a sharp knife into the edge of the pita with the blade going into the center and cut evenly around the pita until it separates into 2 round pieces.

Brush or drizzle each half of the pita with 1 teaspoon of olive oil per half and sprinkle each half with sumac and sea salt. (For a more precise measurement, use a 1/16th-size measuring spoon. If you ever wondered what a “pinch” means in baking, that is exactly what it is.)

The thickness of the pita will affect the baking time, so stay close by the first time you prepare this. Toast for 4-7 minutes on the first side and pull the pan out of the oven. Quickly flip the pieces and give the side that is now facing up another sprinkle of sumac and salt. Put it back into the oven and toast for another 3-5 minutes. The pita should be slightly brown but still have a bit of movement to it.

Remove it from the oven to cool for 10 minutes before using. You can make this a few hours in advance.

Chop the rest of the vegetables as you wish. Some people prefer to make this salad very fine; I prefer chunkier pieces. I like to use what I have on hand, so sometimes I use different kinds of tomatoes or colored peppers. This is one of the best salads to prepare if you have random vegetables that need to be eaten.

When you’re ready to dress the salad, start with about ¼ cup of dressing and go from there. Coat the lettuce and vegetables lightly; there should not be any dressing pooling in the bottom of the serving bowl. You can bring the dressing to the table so that people can add more if they like. The herbs shine through because the dressing is light.

Break the toasted pita by hand and sprinkle the pieces over the salad. You also can add about 1 cup of grated feta cheese if you’re having a dairy meal.

I hope that you enjoy this as much as I do. Bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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