The Tuscan solution for stale bread, panzanella, is just the beginning of salad solutions for stale bread. Throughout the Middle East — where fresh, thin flatbreads dry out even faster than foccacia — there’s a greener, crunchier cousin to panzanella: fattoush.
Fattoush is little more than the ubiquitous Arabic salad that accompanies almost every meal in the Middle East, a varied mix of cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, scallions and fresh herbs. Yet two ingredients set fattoush apart: sumac and pita bread.
In this recipe from our book “Milk Street Tuesday Nights,” which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we make our pita extra crispy so the salad has different textures. We brush the rings with oil and bake them until golden brown. Sumac is like a dry citrus fruit, with earthy, tart notes that brighten up the salad without soggy the pita.
Our addition of quick-pickled raisins isn’t a common fattoush ingredient, but we loved their sweet-tart flavor and luscious texture in a fattoush from chef Ana Sortun’s Oleana Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The pita and raisins can be made a day ahead, but store the pita in an airtight container.
Pomegranate molasses, tangy and slightly fruity, is optional but gives the fattoush a complexity and distinct Middle Eastern character.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 pound seedless red grapes, halved
¼ cup cider vinegar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves of garlic, finely grated
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ to ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Two 8-inch rounds of pita bread, each divided into 2 rounds
½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
½ cup finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)
2 teaspoons ground sumac
1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
6 to 7 ounces romaine hearts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Heat the oven to 400ºF with a rack in the middle position. In a medium bowl, combine raisins, vinegar and ¼ tsp salt. Cover and refrigerate.
In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup oil, garlic, cumin and chili flakes. Arrange the pita rounds, rough side up, on a rimmed baking sheet, then brush each with the flavored oil using all 6 tbsp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and crispy, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool. Once cool enough to handle, break it into bite-size pieces.
Drain the grapes, reserving the marinade liquid. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup oil, yogurt, dill, molasses and sumac, if using, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Add the reserved pickling liquid and whisk well. Add cucumber, romaine, mint, pickled grapes and pita pieces. Stir until evenly coated.
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