Fattoush! (Gesundheit!)

FattoushI couldn’t resist. The name sounds like a sneeze to me, which is exactly what happens when I open a jar of ground sumac and take a big whiff. It’s like snuff for culinary gurus.

So, what is sumac? It’s the ground berries, or bobs, of the sumac shrub. And, no, this isn’t the poisonous kind, so you can put away the calamine lotion. It’s used in Middle East as a souring agent and it’s bright red color also adds some punch to things like hummus or tabbouleh or red lentil soup. You can buy it online (we like Penzey’s) or if you’re local, check out Ed Hyder’s on Pleasant St. in Worcester.

NaanYou can use toasted pita, but we’re loving the naan that’s available in most groceries, especially the whole wheat version. Remember, this is not a salad with croutons; it’s more along the lines of a panzanella or bread salad, so don’t be alarmed by the amount of bread. You can embellish, of course, with things like grilled chicken or goat cheese or other veggies, like grilled eggplant. The fresh mint really makes the dish, so be generous!

Our Favorite Fattoush
(4-6 servings)

1/4 Cup olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
3 big handfuls romaine or other lettuce, shredded
2 small cucumbers, tiny diced
2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
½ red onion, tiny dice
Big fistful fresh parsley, chopped
Big fistful fresh mint, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sumac
2 whole grain naan breads, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Taste it: it should be fairly sour.

Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving (or refrigerate for up to 4 hours).

Not enough for ya? Add some crumbled feta or grilled chicken or little lamb meatballs or oil-packed tuna, or black olives, or roasted red peppers…

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