Have you heard of Fattoush? ................ No, no, the accent is not on the first syllable .............. it's definitely NOT a description of ................
................ what I think sometimes when I happen to see my backside in a mirror ............. like perhaps I've eaten a bit too much of this or maybe it was this or ............. oh dear, could it have been these? No, the accent is on the second syllable and it's pronounced (fə-tūsh') -click to hear it.
But it does have something to do with those thoughts I have when looking in the "rear view" mirror ............ This Middle Eastern Salad is not only vibrant and bursting with fresh flavor, it's also healthy, lean and a delicious way to get ready for the upcoming swimsuit season.
See the little bowl next to the salad? This might be another new word if you're not very familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine. It's a combination of spices (usually thyme, oregano, sumac and sesame seeds) called za'atar which is wildly popular in Israel, Jordan, Armenia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey ............. well let's just say every time you turn around in the Middle East, you're probably going to see someone who's consuming za'atar either for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They sprinkle it on vegetables, meats, oatmeal, yogurt, popcorn, hummus, meatballs, kabobs and believe it or not, it's often consumed on it's own, as a snack!
Za'atar is also commonly mixed with olive oil and used as a dip for fresh pita bread. There are many legends involving záatar; one commonly held belief in Lebanon is that it gives strength and helps one to have a clear mind. So on testing days, children are encouraged to eat a slice of bread with za'atar and a drizzle of olive oil ................ do you get the feeling that we're missing out on something here in the States?
Well, if you've never had fattoush you are missing out on something .............. something delicious, fresh and quite addictive. I find myself craving these vibrant flavors quite frequently. And though I'm usually not crazy about tomatoes in the middle of winter, the deep red tomatoes-on-the-vine that you find year round at most larger markets, do quite well with fattoush. And that makes me smile, happy to know that it's not relegated to one short season of the year. Try it, I think it will make you smile too with it's burst of bright, fresh flavor!
P.S. Here in the Carolinas, Spring pokes her lovely head out towards the end of March which means we begin to pull out the warmer weather clothes. I have a feeling that I'll be needing to eat a lot of fattuoush over the next month so that no one says that I have a fat....toush! :) Oh and that's the reason why I substitute flatbread crackers instead of the traditional fried pita in this salad. It's not totally authentic, but it's totally delicious and that's what counts here at The Café.
Ingredients for the salad:
1 large English (seedless) cucumbers, halved and cut crosswise into thin slices
3 cups chopped tomatoes (I used a combination of cherry, I used the tomatoes-on-the-vine along with some grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced in bite size pieces
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 small bunch green onions, root end removed and sliced on the diagonal in 1/2 inch slices
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
about 2 tablespons za'atar
flat bread crackers or pitas, I used my Chili Oil Rubbed Flatbread Crackers but any flatbread crackers would work well as would toasted pitas
Ingredients for the dressing:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon (organic
1 teaspoon honey
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions for the dressing:
1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a glass jar and shake very well.
Instructions for the salad:
1. Wash, prepare, and chop all veggies into bite-sized pieces.
2. Wash, spin-dry herbs and chop. Place in a large bowl and add chopped veggies.
3. Pour enough dressing over the salad to moisten all ingredients. Toss with a tongs or two forks and sprinkle generously with za'atar. Crumble the flat bread or pitas over the top and stir into salad. Pass extra dressing at the table.
Adapted from Raw Food Recipes