Authentic Lebanese Fattoush Salad Recipe

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  • Most people think of tabbouleh when you mention Lebanese salads.  It’s true, this parsley-bulgur combination is a classic (you can find a recipe in a previous post).  However, fattoush is my favorite. It may be lesser known in the U.S., but this bright-tasting bread salad is standard fare in Lebanon and we’ve enjoyed several different versions during our visit.
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  • The defining taste of fattoush is from the sumac and pomegranate molasses — a sweet-sour syrup that you can find  in Middle Eastern markets (or try making your own via Simply Recipes). I see a lot of U.S. recipes for fattoush that don’t include pomegranate molasses, but you won’t achieve the same authentic results without it.  To me, that’s the best part.  The vegetables should be glistening from the molasses and thoroughly spotted with specks of the sumac.
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  • Sumac is increasingly available in American supermarkets (not sure why it’s not more mainstream).  It’s a wonderful tart spice that comes from a small red berry that grows wild throughout Lebanon.  There are several bushes of sumac on the land surrounding my father-in-law’s house.  I love this bright-tasting spice and I plan to take a big bag back with me to Chicago.  I can find it in the Middle Eastern section of my supermarket (and some spice sections of specialty stores), but it doesn’t compare to buying it here in Lebanon.
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  • Fattoush is derived from an Arabic word that means “small crumbs.”  Its name describes the bits of toasted pita bread that are tossed throughout the salad that give it the signature  crunch — like a Middle Eastern crouton.
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  • All of the other ingredients are evenly sliced or diced to resemble an American chopped salad.  The major components include purslane (baqleh in Arabic) — a slightly lemony micro-green that you can find seasonally at farmer’s markets or specialty stores in the U.S. (sometimes referred to as mache).   It provides a tremendous freshness when combined with the romaine lettuce.  If you can’t find it use arugula or watercress instead, or simply stick with the romaine.

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The other featured ingredients in fattoush include cucumbers.  In Lebanon, you can find these wonderful small seedless cucumbers that have a soft, tender peeling.  The best substitutes are English seedless cucumbers that are now widely available in U.S. grocery stores,  or small cucumbers that are used to make pickles.

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Additional fattoush ingredients include tomatoes, onions, green pepper, radish, fresh parsley and fresh mint.  The sumac is sprinkled over the salad and used in the dressing, which is typically made with lemon juice, olive oil and pomegranate syrup.  In some regions of Lebanon, the fattoush dressing is made with red vinegar instead of lemon juice, or a combination of lemon juice and red vinegar — along with the olive oil and pomegranate syrup.

 

Salad ingredients

1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces or coarsely chopped
1 cup purslane (or arugula)
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, halved lengthwise and chopped (peeled, if desired)
2 large tomatoes, diced (or cherry tomatoes can be used)
4 green onions, chopped (or 1/2 cup thinly sliced red or yellow onion)
1/2 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced or chopped
3 small radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon sumac

2 pita breads, split, toasted or fried and torn into bite-size pieces

  • Dressing
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (or to taste)
    2 teaspoons sumac
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Combine all salad ingredients except the bread into a large bowl.  When you’re ready to serve, whisk the dressing ingredients together and toss the salad.  (However, most people in Lebanon will likely squeeze the lemon directly on the dressing and then add the additional ingredients.)  Mix in the toasted or fried bread (which can be drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sumac when toasting in the oven).

Below is a version of fattoush we enjoyed in a restaurant in Byblos.  It arrived with the all the fried bread arranged on top that we broke up into smaller pieces and tossed.  Certainly it’s healthier to toast the bread instead of fry, but this fried bread with a drizzle of pomegranate syrup on top was amazing!

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Look who else is making fattoush:

Kalyn’s Kitchen
Taste of Beirut
Food & Wine
Tony Tahhan
Hommos & Tabbouli


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