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Fattoush (Chopped Vegetable and Pita Salad) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Cutting the vegetables into bite-size pieces allows you to experience all the different flavors and textures in each bite.
  • Tossing the pita with the vegetables and dressing right before serving gives the bread a chance to absorb the flavors without becoming too soggy.
  • Finishing the salad with grated halloumi cheese and ground sumac provides a striking visual while also bringing savory, sour flavors. 

Many salads are an afterthought, but not fattoush—the many contrasting textures and flavors in this vegetable and pita salad make it a star in its own right. It is often the salad of choice at Arab dinner parties because it is substantial enough to satisfy someone who may prefer to not eat meat, but is still light and refreshing enough to complement heavier dishes. It has become emblematic of iftar dinners, and rarely have I sat at a Ramadan iftar table without a platter of fattoush. Fattoush’s popularity for iftar and in general could in part be due to the fact that it’s nutritious because of the variety of vegetables it includes, but also because it’s customizable and a good way to use whatever greens and vegetables you have at home. Plus, many of the elements of fattoush can be prepared ahead, which makes it a simple dish to assemble. 

Like other fatteh recipes, fattoush is derived from the Arabic word “fatt,” meaning to break bread into morsels and steep in a liquid like a soup or stew. Fattoush is a variation on that word, using the suffix “oush,” which is often used endearingly in nicknames or to refer to cute things in several Arabic dialects. 

Fattoush is a traditional Levantine dish eaten across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine throughout the year. While stories about its creation and naming abound, it’s likely that its origin, like that of many Arabic dishes, harkens back to times of austerity, when various ingredients like meat, legumes, or produce were either not readily available or expensive. Bread was often used to bulk things up and turn other pantry staples, like legumes, into a meal. Nowadays, however, people make the effort to prepare bread specially for fattoush by frying or toasting pieces of pita, and sometimes even rolling them into pretty snail-like shapes before frying.

Historically, the primary ingredients used to make fattoush were tomatoes, cucumbers, and bread. Over time, it has evolved into a more intricate salad with a base of lettuce and purslane and, in addition to the traditional tomatoes and cucumber, it may include scallions, parsley, mint, bell peppers, and radishes, along with the quintessential toasted bread. Lemony purslane complements the sharpness of the tomatoes and the pomegranate molasses, and the parsley and mint provide a bright herbaceousness. The only ingredient in this recipe that can be tricky to find is purslane, though you can often find it at farmers’ markets, as well as at well-stocked grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can substitute with mixed spring greens, baby spring, or more lettuce. (Just avoid arugula or kale because they can be overpowering.)

How fattoush is presented varies according to preference. Many opt to top the salad with bread to keep it crispy, allowing each person to mix their portion upon serving, while others prefer to mix everything together before serving. I find the latter more flavorful, even if the presentation is not as striking. For an even more elaborate version, some people, including myself, grate white cheese—akkawi, nabulsi, or halloumi all work—over the salad, along with a generous sprinkling of ground sumac. These garnishes make the salad even more beautiful while also bringing a more complex flavor. Halloumi’s deep savoriness and sumac’s bright tartness complement one another, while also highlighting the punchy dressing of lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. Tossed together, the salad is crisp, refreshing, and keeps you coming back for more.

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