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
download a
PDF to print
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

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

The name of this recipe is a little unfair, because there’s nothing more perfect than the tabbouleh my grandmother, mom, and great aunt make without recipes, scales, or cups. But a great recipe is different from the thing itself, and a recipe only exists to get you to delicious food. So I finally got around to recording our family recipe in grams, instead of bunches, cups, and handfuls. But at the end of the day, you don’t really need to use these precise measurements, because tabbouleh is very straightforward if you know what you’re doing.

The key to good tabbouleh is to remember that the parsley, mint, and onion are not mere garnishes, but a substantial part of the salad, so be sure to pay attention to your ratios, and adjust them to your liking. The most important ratio to pay attention to is bulgur:parsley. There’s some controversy among recipe writers about how much bulgur to add to tabbouleh, and I fall somewhere in the middle, or maybe a little more toward the bulgur-heavy side of the spectrum. One thing we can all agree on is that there shouldn’t be too much bulgur (it’s just that the definition of “too much” varies from person to person, as well as season to season).

Perhaps the reason I like to include a little more bulgur than some is that my family taught me to treat the bulgur with a little special care. So instead of boiling or steeping it in water, we like to soak it in lemon and tomato juice. This makes every bite incredibly flavorful (and it conveniently saves an extra step). But this method only works if you use fine bulgur, so don’t miss the notes at the bottom of the recipe if you want to substitute a coarser bulgur.

tabbouleh

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

serves 6
total time: 30 minutes
download a PDF to print

  • 150g (3/4 cup) fine burghul/bulgur #1 *

  • 425g (2 cups) minced tomatoes, with their juices (from about 3 medium tomatoes)

  • 85g (between 1/3 - 1/2 cup) lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

  • Salt to taste

  • 100g (2 cups) minced flat-leaf parsley leaves (from about 2 big bunches)**

  • 45g (3/4 cup) minced green onions (from less than 1 bunch)

  • 35g (1 cup) minced mint leaves (from about 1 big bunch, or 2 smaller ones)

  • 45g (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. If you're using fine burghul/bulgur #1, you should not cook your burghul in hot water; instead, soak the burghul in a mixing bowl with the minced tomatoes, their juices, 75 grams of the lemon juice, and a pinch of salt (to taste). Let the mixture soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients (about 20 minutes). The bulgur will continue to hydrate once you’ve mixed the salad together.

  2. Add the parsley, green onions, mint, and remaining lemon juice to the bulgur and tomato mixture, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper. Mix well, and let it sit for about 10 minutes before salting and serving. You can enjoy it for about 48 hours, but if you’re making it for guests, you should serve it within about 30 minutes of mixing. Season with salt (to taste) immediately before serving.

* You can find burghul #1/fine bulgur at most Middle Eastern markets, and some international sections of grocery stores. If you can't find a source near you, you can substitute couscous, cracked wheat, or coarse bulgur. These will need to be cooked in boiling water until al dente, rinsed, strained well, and then soaked with the tomatoes and lemon juice for about ten minutes. Burghul #1 is pre-cooked and very fine, so it only needs to be soaked, rather than cooked.
** Make sure your herbs are dried very well with a towel or spin-dryer before mincing. Use the sharpest knife you have, so that you can cut through the herbs cleanly, instead of crushing them. For precision, all of the ingredients in this recipe are measured after mincing, so the 100g parsley is just the leaves themselves, not the weight of the entire bunch (make sure you buy enough).

tabbouleh