This is one of my favorite summertime salads. When you have more tomatoes and cucumbers than you know what to do with, this is your go to dish. It's fast, it's refreshing and it's easy. It's basically a Middle Eastern panzanella. I've already shared with you my panzanella recipe. It is truly one of my favorite dishes ever. So it's no wonder I like fattoush as well. Both recipes consist of a vegetable salad with some form of toasty bread. In panzanella, it's crusty Italian bread used like croutons. In fattoush, it's toasty shards of pitas. Similar ideas, but a whole different palette of flavors. In panzanella, it's all about the tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. In fattoush, it's about the tomatoes, yes, but also the cooling cucumbers, the parsley and mint, and crunchy pitas.
Nigella Lawson gets all the credit for turning me on to fattoush years ago on one of her cooking shows. I've been making it ever since. You can make it as she did to accompany grilled chicken spiced with Za'atar — an Arabic blend of herbs, primarily oregano and sesame seeds. Or you can go vegetarian and serve it as we often do with Halloumi cheese crumbles on top.
If you aren't familiar with halloumi, it's amazing. It's a Middle Eastern cheese, often made with sheep or goat's milk. And it has secret powers — it has a high melting point so you can grill it or fry it without it oozing all over the place. This is great on kebobs. Halloumi's flavor is mild, similar to mozzarella, but a little saltier. I usually remove it from the wrapper and place it in a bowl of water for about five minutes. Much of the salt will come out this way. Also, it usually contains a little mint. So if you seem some tiny green flecks, no worries.
Buying tip: in Austin, I've found the best price on halloumi at Phoenicia, our Middle Eastern market. Look for it in the freezer case. I buy several blocks at once and store them in the freezer. The texture of the cheese is sturdy and it holds up just fine.
This is a fast and easy salad. Except for the dressing, which will make enough for two people, I'm not going to give you amounts. Make as big or small a salad as you like, depending on if it's a side or the main event. We usually have giant plates of it as our one-dish dinner. It's great with some creamy hummus or baba ganoush.
romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size chunks
cherry tomatoes, halved or regular tomatoes, cut into chunks
cucumbers, sliced into half moons or rounds
sweet peppers, sliced into chunks or little rounds
halloumi cheese, crumbled
green onions or chives, sliced thinly
pita chips, or toasted pitas, crumbled
zest and juice of one lemon
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Put your dressing ingredients into a small bowl and whisk. Alternative: put the ingredients into a small jar, attach the lid tightly and shake, shake, shake!
Assemble your salad however you like. Add the herbs, pita chips and sprinkle with lemon zest.
Drizzle dressing over top and enjoy.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson.