Even if you don’t know the first thing about Levantine cuisine, fattoush (فتوش) is a universally appreciable hot-weather salad. Okay, Floridians shouldn’t consider 18ºC “hot weather,” but in London the line between local and tourist is blurred as everyone swarms outside with sunglasses, cameras, and picnic gear. Anyhow, it’s May! Time to celebrate with a premature summer salad.
Particularly popular in Lebanon, fattoush salad is built loosely around seasonal vegetables and herbs, then topped with crispy pita pieces. Fresh mint does its famously cooling thing, radishes contribute a refreshing crunch, and the dressing is pleasantly tangy. It’s usually a combination involving lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and/or a spice called sumac, which is ground from the fruits of Rhus shrubs. Sumac is a beautiful earthy brick colour with a strong citrusy taste.
Dainty pink radishes are in season here, but they also mature rapidly for harvesting (in fact, the Greek genus name Raphanus means “quickly appearing”), which makes it a staple in any beginner’s garden allotment. The same goes for peashoots, which I’ve used here in lieu of the more traditionally used purslane. Feel free to substitute and supplement vegetables to taste, season, and locality; lettuce, parsley, feta, sweet peppers, red cabbage, and olives are some common options.
- 2 t ground sumac, soaked in 2 t warm water
- 2 T fresh lemon juice
- 1 T pomegranate molasses (optional)
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 wholemeal pita, toasted in pieces
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 English cucumber, chopped
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 6 radishes, thinly sliced
- handful purslane / pea shoots
- handful fresh parsley, chopped
- handful fresh mint, chopped
Combine sumac with the water, lemon juice, and garlic. Gradually whisk in olive oil, then season with salt to taste.
Bake the pita with some olive oil, salt, and sumac in a 200ºC oven until crisp and golden. Toss the toasted pita pieces in a drizzle of oil to prevent them from getting soggy in the salad bowl.
Combine all prepped vegetables and herbs in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat well. Top with pita and a sprinkle of sumac.