With warm weather here to stay, I find myself cooking less and less hearty bubbe food to make way for summer delights. While in past years, the seasonal absence of heavy dishes has been filled by popsicles and ice cream, this year I am most looking forward to tending my very first garden for the freshest of fruits and veggies. (Is this what growing up is? Craving a vegetable instead of ice cream?)
Since having some of the best produce of my life in Israel last summer, I have looked towards that part of the world for inspiration when it comes to fixing fresh vegetables. Compared to what Middle Eastern spices and flavors can do to vegetables, the American ways of jazzing up salads with ranch dressing and mayonnaise are just baffling.
One dish that I cannot wait to make once my garden is fully grown is Fattoush salad. It has roots just north of Israel, in Lebanon, and the star of the dish is stale bread (usually pita). Variations run the gamut from “Jerusalem’s” creamy buttermilk version to a gluten free take that features a chickpea pancake. Sumac, mint leaves, lemon, and chopped vegetables are usual suspects in a Fattoush, and the result is utterly refreshing with a hint of comfort, thanks to the bread.
This version uses the addition of hard boiled eggs to make for a complete meal. Lightly frying the pita crisps it up a bit while leaving it slightly chewy, and a smidge of honey in the dressing gives balance to the lemon. Feel free to add any other goodies that your garden yields and have fun ringing in summer with this delicious, colorful salad.
Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
2 day-old pitas, chopped or ripped into 1-2 inch pieces
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved or sliced
2 packed cups fresh spinach
1 large cucumber, coarsely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 stalks green onions, chopped
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sumac
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon honey
1) Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. If the oil starts to smoke, reduce the heat. Fry the pita pieces for 30-60 seconds on each side, until slightly browned. Transfer to a paper towel and immediately sprinkle lightly with salt. Alternatively, you can toast or grill the pita.
2) In a large bowl, combine the pita chips with remaining salad ingredients. Season with a few turns of black pepper and salt to taste.
3) Whisk together dressing ingredients. Taste and make any desired adjustments. Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad, toss, add more dressing if desired, and serve immediately.
Photos by Molly Yeh