Fattoush (Traditional Middle Eastern Salad) ♥ Recipe

Fattoush (Middle Eastern Salad with Romaine, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Fried Pita Chips and Lemon-Sumac Dressing)
It takes a lot of words to describe what's really a simple traditional Lebanese / Syrian / Middle Eastern salad. So instead, just learn this one word and repeat after me: Fattoush. Fattoush. Fattoush. (That's fuh-toosh, fuh-toosh, fuh-toosh.) Now go make one.

Dear St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
A certain St. Louis food blogger is wild for the Fattoush Salad at Ranoush, the Syrian restaurants in University City and now in Kirkwood. Would you please see if the owners would share the recipe? Please, pretty please?
That Certain Food Blogger


Since February, I've been writing a weekly column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called "Special Request" -- the one where St. Louisans write in to ask for recipes for their favorite dishes from restaurants. It's a kick! (See St. Louis Restaurant Recipes & the Most Recent Columns.)

But every once in awhile, I want to game the system and send in my own request. Now that'd be cheating but I've been extra-tempted all summer long, ever since Ranoush (before clicking, you might want to "mute" your sound) opened a second location just a few blocks from home.

Ranoush is my kinda place. Good food. Open late! (The "Kirkwood Dinner Bell" rings at five so finding good food after 8pm here can be tricky!) Friendly owner and staff. A big patio with red umbrellas that brightens a too-long empty corner right in the midst of our little downtown. We've been at least three times -- and I've suggested it for lunch and supper and a late-night snack at least that many times again -- but have ordered only one thing, the fattoush salad. (Well, two, actually, but the amazing hummus will have to wait for another day.) The fattoush salad is made with romaine and tomatoes in a lemony-garlicky-sweetish vinaigrette and checkered with crisp squares of just-out-of-the-fryer pita bread. OH MY.

But get this, I've already posted a fattoush salad here on A Veggie Venture. Back in 2006, I made the salad three times to get it to meet my taste. But the thing is, I had never actually tasted a fattoush salad back then. My 2006 attempts came pretty close, especially the dressing. But I got the romaine and vegetable proportions wrong -- not that you can go wrong, really, it's just that I turned what should have been fattoush into something else.

But the real mistake was to discount the importance of the pita chips -- don't skip these! It takes just a few minutes to fry them and just like the Italian tomato and bread salad Panzanella wouldn't really be panzanella without the bread, I've learned my lesson: Fattoush isn't really Fattoush without the pita squares.

So yes, I'm still wild about Fattoush. The good thing about making it at home? Now I can explore the rest of the menu at Ranoush.


RECIPE for FATTOUSH (TRADITIONAL MIDDLE-EASTERN SALAD with ROMAINE, TOMATOES, CUCUMBERS, FRIED PITA CHIPS & LEMON-SUMAC VINAIGRETTE)

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes 4 side salads or feeds 1 hungry food blogger for dinner

SALAD
Romaine lettuce, washed well, leaves dried, chilled if there's time
Chopped tomato, small cherry and grape tomatoes hold up well
Cucumber, peeled or striped if the skin is tough, seeded if the seeds are large, chopped

LEMON-SUMAC VINAIGRETTE
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon sumac (what is sumac? see Notes)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt & pepper

FRIED PITA CHIPS
Peanut oil
1 or 2 pita breads, cut into squares

SALAD Prep the salad ingredients, chill while making the rest of the salad.

LEMON-SUMAC VINAIGRETTE With a small food processor, process all the ingredients until smooth.

FRIED PITA CHIPS Heat about a half inch of oil in a large skillet, it's "hot enough" when you can flick some water off your fingertips into the skillet and the oil sizzles. Drop in a single layer of pita square and let turn golden and crisp, it takes just a minute. Lift out the squares and let drain on a plate lined with paper towels. If needed, cook another layer.

ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
WHAT IS SUMAC? Sumac is a red spice, made from the ground fruit from sumac trees and shrubs. It adds a sour note that I just love and is common in Middle Eastern food. Look for it at Penzeys, at Amazon.com or if you're in St. Louis, Global Foods in Kirkwood. Wondering whether to make the investment? Here are some other recipes that use sumac from Saveur.
NO SUMAC? Just to see, I made the salad once without the sumac. It's definitely missed but at the same time, if you've not had it WITH sumac, I think you'll find Fattoush to be just plain good.
KEEP THINGS MOVING To expedite things, you might want to start the oil right away, even if you don't actually fry the pita squares until just before serving.
REUSE THE OIL You can reuse the oil once or twice.
TEMPERATURE MATTERS This salad is best -- most refreshing -- when the lettuce and tomatoes are cold. That said, tomatoes get mealy when stored in the fridge so maybe just cold lettuce will do -- or a quick chill before serving.


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7 comments:

This looks nice and refreshing. I don't have any sumac but will look at the local specialty stores

I saw a recipe for this in a cookbook once and meant to make it. Thanks for sharing. This looks delicious and super easy. I will for sure pick up sumac the next time I am at Penzeys!
Bree
www.skinnymommy.com

We've eaten at Ranoush 3 times in the past 3 weeks. Be sure to try: Batenjaan bil Foren (baked aubergines); Shish Tawuk (ask them to be sure not to overcook it); Beef Kafta (moist and very flavorful), and the Vegetarian Mezza for Two, which is enough for 4 to share as an appetizer, was delish - tho Riffi seemed to eat most of it! And the best baklawa I've ever had (and I've eaten more than my fair share)...

Oh, I also ordered the Cardamom Kahwa one time when I hadn't yet had my daily cup of coffee, and as a result I'm now adding cardamom to my coffee grounds in the am. What a delightful change of pace - and Sherm likes it, too. Waaaay better than adding cinnamon.

I'm going to make this Fatoush using *grilled* romaine - can't wait!

I LOVE fattoush and have never had it at Ranoush...can't wait to try it next time!

Hmmmm....haven't been to Ranoush yet BUT love Fattoush!! And Sumac. Was roommates with a Persian Chic during college and her dad always made sumac rice. Just adored it (the sumac, not the father :)
He was mostly adorable most of the time, but the other times.......

Alanna - This is totally my kind of dish! It sounds fabulous - thanks for sharing. I'm going to order some sumac!

Sounds and looks refreshing. Looking into making this.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna