Many cuisines have a bread salad made from peak produce and stale or toasted bread, all tossed together for a meal made of what's in season and what's around. Fattoush is no different, except that the addition of toasted pita and loads of fresh herbs make fresh summer produce — think juicy tomatoes and cool, crunchy radishes and cucumber — blush with flavor.
I recently had friends over for a cookout and served this fattoush alongside a grilled flank steak. Not a single morsel of this salad was left. Even my husband, a salad skeptic, said this salad was game-changing.
Incorporating some wisdom from Samin Norsat, of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame, this version of fattoush is sublime, easy-to-make, and likely to be your new go-to summer salad. In this recipe, you'll get some guidance on choosing the best produce for the job, a lesson in seasoning from Samin, and the secret to adding the element of heat in raw salads. Let's get started.
What Is Fattoush?
Fattoush is a Middle Eastern bread salad made from toasted or fried pita bread, tomatoes, radishes, and cucumber and tossed with a lemon-sumac dressing. The Lebanese are often credited with its creation, but you'll find riffs on this salad throughout the Middle East.
Here are the non-negotiable fattoush essentials we'll be covering.
- Choosing the best ingredients for fattoush, from pita to tomatoes.
- The important, cannot-miss steps for seasoning.
- The best way to prep pita for fattoush.
Choose Ingredients Wisely
Fattoush is a sum of its parts, so every ingredient needs to be the best of its kind for the purpose it serves. Tomatoes must be juicy and pita must be soft. More details on the specifics below.
- Produce: Although pita is a primary ingredient in fattoush, the star of the show should be the produce. Choose the ripest, juiciest tomatoes (the recipe below calls for cherry tomatoes, but if you've got robust summer tomatoes, please use those).
- Herbs: You'll also want a bunch of fresh herbs for fattoush. You'll need almost a one-to-one ratio of mint and parsley to the romaine lettuce, so look for just-picked, still-brimming-with-life herbs for the best flavor.
- Pita: Good pita is soft, supple, and pillowy. If you have a Middle Eastern market or restaurant nearby, seek them out for their pita bread. It will always be better than the mass-market pitas, which tend to be thin and dry. Or make your own and use the leftovers for fattoush.
- Sumac: Sumac is ground from the berries of the sumac bush. It has a tart, lemon-pepper flavor that cannot be readily replicated. Ground sumac can be found at specialty markets, online, and in some well-stocked grocery stores.
The Important, Cannot-Miss Steps for Seasoning
While I chatted with Samin about fattoush, we talked about everything from the pita (she has brilliant advice that we'll get to in a minute) to the importance of an oily vinaigrette for breads salads, but her best advice was also the simplest: "Salads really need seasoning at every step, and fattoush is no different. Season the pita, the vegetables, the dressing — then taste and season again." You'll see that thinking incorporated in the recipe below, and you'll definitely taste it in the final salad.
The Best Way to Prep Pita for Fattoush
"We did eat fattoush a lot growing up, " Samin says. "But I always remember my dad burning our pita bread. Fattoush, any bread salad for that matter, benefits from that cooked flavor."
Heeding Samin's advice, the pita for this fattoush isn't just staled, but rather cooked to a crisp in a warm oven. This not only adds an incredible layer of flavor to the finished salad, but also keeps the pita from getting completely mushy as it becomes drenched in the salad's dressing and the moisture from the vegetables.
How To Make Fattoush (Middle Eastern Bread Salad) at Home
What You Need
For the pita:
2 (7- to 8-inch) pita breads
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground sumac
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the sumac vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 medium English or hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 cups coarsely chopped romaine lettuce (from 1/2 heart of romaine lettuce)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
Measuring cups and spoons
- Season and toast the pita bread: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Brush the pita with the oil and sprinkle with the sumac and salt. Cut the pita into bite-sized pieces, then arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp on the bottom and edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Break into bite-sized pieces.
- Make the vinaigrette: Place all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a glass jar. Cover and shake vigorously until emulsified.
Build the salad: Place all the salad ingredients except the sumac in a large bowl. Top with the toasted pita, drizzle with enough sumac vinaigrette to coat the greens and pita, and toss to combine. Dust the top of the salad with the ground sumac, if desired, and serve immediately.
- Make ahead: Pitas can be toasted and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Dressing can be made ahead and stored for 1 week in the refrigerator.
- Storage: Once dressed with the vinaigrette, the salad is best eaten immediately.