Recipe ©copyright Julie Le Clerc, from Taking Tea in the Medina cookbook (Penguin Books NZ)
This humble but character-filled Lebanese bread salad is dedicated to my wonderful Lebanese great-grandfather, Samuel Saleem Bishara, who I never met but oh so wish I had. In Lebanon, we tasted many different versions of this salad. As with most home-cooked dishes the recipe will vary from village to village and even from person to person. Purslane is a herbal salad leaf that is traditionally added (and is my favourite addition) but I have suggested other salad greens that can be substituted if purslane is not available. There are other variables as well. Most often the pita bread is fried but I prefer to bake it for a less oily consistency. Some cooks add radishes or spring onions; some will omit the lettuce, as desired. In Northern Lebanon, pomegranate molasses is often added to the dressing. Sumac, a pungent, astringent spice ground from the crimson berries of a decorative bush peculiar to the Middle East, adds an important flavour component to fattoush
2 large rounds of pita bread
2 Lebanese cucumbers, rinsed
8 medium-sized vine-ripened tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled or a bunch of spring onions
1 cup purslane, lamb’s lettuce (mache), watercress, rocket leaves
or diced iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sumac
LEBANESE LEMON DRESSING:
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush pita with olive oil and spread on a baking tray. Bake for 10–15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove to cool, then break or shatter into small pieces.
Diced cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion and combine in a bowl with lettuce and herbs. Season well with plenty of salt and pepper.
Blend dressing ingredients together. Pour dressing over the salad ingredients and toss well to coat. Lastly toss in the toasted pita pieces so that they remain crisp.
Sprinkle with sumac, if available – though don’t worry if you cannot find sumac, the salad will still be delicious.