my favorite fattoush

fattoush

My grandparents had a cozy pre-war ranch house with a modest dining room, where we’d gather almost every weekend when I was a kid. A couple years after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother sold the house along with the dining room furniture, and as time goes on, the table grows bigger in my memory. When I think of it now, it fills the whole room, with just enough space for chairs to surround it. Every weekend, the big dining room table was laden with the food my grandmother cooked, and there was almost always a big bowl of fattoush, everyone’s favorite salad.

fattoush
fattoush

I posted about fattoush a couple years ago, back when I first started blogging. My mom taught me how to make fattoush a long time ago, but I was new to recipe writing, and hadn’t yet learned how to write streamlined instructions. Even today, I still tend to write on the long side, but I’m proud to say that these days my recipes are so much more efficient than they used to be (I mean, except for when I leave you with 4 paragraphs of footnotes…). So lately I’ve been revisiting old posts and giving them little makeovers.

Today, I’m sharing a new and improved recipe, which is a better attempt to explain how to make my family’s favorite salad. I’ve tinkered with my recipe to make it much easier to shop for, make, and store. Most importantly, the dressing is now mixed up separately from the salad (with precise quantities), and then poured on right before serving, so you can mix up half and store the rest for later (or so you can meal prep the whole thing to make it ahead of time). I’ve also added measurements in grams at the end of each ingredient, in case you’re not a fan of inexact measurements like “2 medium pitas.” But either way, as long as you don’t skimp on the sumac, it’s hard to go wrong.

fattoush
fattoush

fattoush

total time: 25 minutes
serves about 10 as a side
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or try my
grilled radicchio fattoush or kale fattoush

  • 2 medium pitas, cut into bite-sized triangles (140 grams)

  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (14 grams)

  • 3 tablespoons sumac (25 grams)

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (61 grams, from about 2 lemons)

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (55 grams)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 medium head of romaine, chopped (375 grams)

  • 5 roma tomatoes, chopped (325 grams)

  • 4 Persian cucumbers, chopped (325 grams)

  • 1 large or 2 very small green bell peppers, chopped (170 grams after seeding)

  • 1 1/4 loosely-packed cups coarsely chopped mint leaves (15 grams)

  • 2 loosely-packed cups coarsely chopped parsley leaves (20 grams)

  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup chopped green onions (35 grams)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F convection.*

  2. Coat the pita triangles evenly in 1 tablespoon of neutral oil. Spread evenly on a sheet pan, salt to taste, and bake until golden brown (about 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pita).

  3. Combine the sumac, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk, and set aside.

  4. Spread out the chopped romaine in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Top with the tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, mint, parsley, and green onions. When you’re ready to serve, whisk the dressing, top the salad with the dressing and pita chips, and toss everything together.

* If you don’t have convection, no worries—it just might take a little longer for them to toast, and you might need to rotate the pan once halfway through to make sure they’re browning evenly.

Storage

  • To store for less than a day: Make sure your herbs and veggies are well-dried before chopping with a sharp knife. Refrigerate the veggies and herbs in one sealed container, and the dressing in another. Store the toasted pita chips in a sealed container at room temperature once they’ve cooled down.

  • To store for a few days/for meal prep: Store as described above, but also refrigerate the herbs and green onions in another separate container, lined with a slightly damp paper towel (and seriously make sure you dry them well before chopping).

fattoush

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

It’s barely a walk from our apartment to one of our favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, the izakaya Okra Kitchen. Naming a restaurant after a polarizing vegetable is the kind of thing I could totally see myself insisting on, and I happen to be strongly on team okra, so I was sold right away. We most often find ourselves ordering their brussels sprouts, which are deep fried, sprinkled with boozy Xinjiang raisins, covered in their special sauce, and piled high with julienned radishes.

So lately I’ve been making a more home-cooked Middle Eastern version of this for quick weeknight meals and holiday celebrations, with yogurt tahini sauce, pickled apples, a little crushed red pepper, and my favorite magical thing I learned from my grandmother: roasted raisins.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

why roast or sauté your raisins?

The difference between roasted raisins and straight-out-of-the-box is like the difference between homemade sea salt caramels and milk duds. Roasting takes them from stale, lifeless blobs to soft, chewy flavor bombs.

Even before I knew what roasted or sautéed raisins were, I loved them in riza sh’ariyeh (jeweled rice with vermicelli noodles). I’d always strategically scoop rice onto my plate to end up with extra topping. If we had guests over, I would do this as tactfully as possible, but if it was just our immediate family, all civility went out the window and I was shameless.

It wasn’t until I learned how to cook riza sh’ariyeh a couple years ago that I learned what made the raisins in it so delicious. It turns out, my grandmother sautés them briefly in butter, before sprinkling them on top of the rice. It takes so little time that it may seem like an insignificant detail, but it’s everything.

When I’m cooking on the stove, I sauté them in a little butter, but when I’m roasting, I like throwing them on the sheet pan for the last couple minutes, just until they puff up a little and caramelize slightly. In this brussels sprouts recipe, you sprinkle them on after the sprouts have started to caramelize, so they can broil for a minute or so. Top everything with yogurt tahini sauce, pickled apples, and crushed red pepper, and be sure to watch out for strategic raisin scooping at the dinner table.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

yield: about 5 servings
active time: 15 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
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PDF to print

yogurt tahini sauce

  • 1 tablespoon tahini

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt *

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 pinch salt

  • Water, as needed

  1. Combine the tahini, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and salt, and stir together until it forms a thick sauce. Stir in water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, stopping once the sauce still has some body, but is a pourable consistency (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons when developing this recipe—it will vary depending on your Greek yogurt).

quick pickled apples

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 big pinch salt

  • 1 small pinch sugar

  • 1/2 of 1 granny smith apple

  1. Combine the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and sugar in a small bowl, and stir until dissolved.

  2. Peel and julienne (or allumette) the half apple, using a mandolin or very sharp knife.

  3. Add the julienned apple to the brine (quickly so it doesn’t brown), and gently press it down with the back of a spoon until it’s submerged. Let it stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour, and then strain once it’s as tangy as you’d like.

roast veggies

  • 21 to 22 ounces (600g) brussels sprouts (about 50 small sprouts, 25 medium ones, or 17 giant ones)

  • olive oil

  • salt

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

  • 1/2 tablespoon softened or melted butter

  • crushed red pepper

  1. Preheat the oven’s broiler.

  2. Halve the brussels sprouts, coat them in oil, place cut-side-up on a sheet pan, and season to taste.

  3. Broil the brussels sprouts for about 10 minutes (it might take as little as 5). Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not caramelizing too quickly (if they are, move them away from the heat source, turn the temperature down, and/or remove them from the oven early).

  4. Coat the raisins in a little softened or melted butter. In the last minute of broiling, sprinkle the raisins over the brussels sprouts, and broil them for about 1 minute, just until they’re starting to swell a little and caramelize in spots. Do not let them burn, and keep a close eye on them (it might take just 30 seconds, and varies from oven to oven).

  5. Move the brussels sprouts and some of the raisins to a serving bowl, top with a few spoonfuls of yogurt tahini sauce, sprinkle the rest of the raisins over the top, and top with a heap of the apple pickles. Garnish with crushed red pepper, and serve with extra yogurt sauce on the side.

* To make this vegan, instead make a lemon tahini sauce. Also be sure to use oil instead of butter when you roast the raisins.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins