kale fattoush

kale fattoush

If I had to pick one word to describe fattoush, I would call it meaty. Don't get me wrong, this traditional Middle Eastern salad is 100% vegan, and it's essentially just veggies and bread, but it tastes so much more substantial than it looks. The toasted, staled, or (in this case) fried pita chips add a lot of gravity to the crunchy romaine and big chunks of summer veggies. Since I eat classic fattoush all the time, I like to change my recipe a little whenever I make it, and lately I've been adding lots of chopped kale instead of romaine, which makes for an even heartier salad.

Massaging Kale
Pita chips
Kale Fattoush

If you've made a kale salad before, you're probably familiar with the concept of massaging the greens. I used to think this was a sort of ridiculously over the top thing to do (I think we can all agree that it's at least a very silly phrase), but it really makes all the difference. The kale starts out with the consistency of that green cellophane they use to wrap gift baskets, but after a brief olive oil massage, it takes on a texture much more like al dente noodles—pleasantly chewy, and definitely not sharp or crinkly. I've also experimented with massaging the leaves through a plastic bag, which is a pretty good good alternative if you prefer not to touch food with your bare hands, but it's not quite the same a real deep tissue massage.

Kale Fattoush

When I make this salad with kale, I like to add a little pomegranate molasses to accent the brightness of the lemon and sumac, as well as some toasted sesame seeds to give this salad a little more depth. And for a little more fragrance, I replaced the mint with basil—it's the fattoush you know and love, but with a few small twists. If you want to modify this recipe to make it a vegan main course, feel free to add one or two cans of rinsed chickpeas, but it also goes great with kebabs or lahm bi ajeen.

kale fattoushie

kale fattoush

yield: 6 servings
total time: 35 minutes
for variations, try my
classic fattoush and grilled radicchio fattoush
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  • 1 pint to 1 quart oil for deep frying (e.g., peanut, canola, corn, olive oil, but not extra virgin)

  • 2 medium pitas, cut into small triangles (store-bought or homemade)

  • 1/2 pound washed, dried, stemmed, and chopped kale (from 1 large or 2 small bunches)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided into 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons

  • 1 1/2 cups large-chopped cucumbers, (2 to 3 Persian cucumbers)

  • 2 cups large-chopped tomatoes, (3 roma tomatoes)

  • 1 1/2 cups large-chopped green pepper (1 pepper)

  • 1 cup chopped parsley (1 bunch)

  • 1/4 cup chiffonade basil

  • 3/4 cups chopped green onions (3 or 4 green onions)

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, (1 lemon)

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses *

  • 3 tablespoons sumac **

  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
    2 tablespoons lightly toasted sesame seeds (plus an extra 1 teaspoon for garnish)

  1. Set up a safe fry station on the stove or in a dedicated deep fryer. Turn the heat to high so that the oil slowly rises to 340° F.

  2. To fry the pita chips, work in batches and don't crowd the oil. Once the oil has heated, add a handful of pita chips and stir them around, keeping a close eye on them. Once they're golden brown and crispy (about 1 minute), remove them with a slotted spoon or spider.

  3. Add the kale to a big serving bowl and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Massage the oil into the leaves by crushing them with your hands until they shrink down a bit and become more tender. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes. ***

  4. Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, parsley, basil, and green onions.

  5. When you're ready to serve, toss the salad with the lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, sumac, salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Right before serving, toss in the pita chips and top with the extra teaspoon of sesame seeds for garnish.

* Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern markets and some grocery stores in the ethnic foods aisle. You could also make your own. It keeps very well and is used in a lot of Middle Eastern recipes.
** Sumac is also available in Middle Eastern markets and some grocery stores, but it's also very easy to find online. I use sumac in several of my recipes, and it's a good thing to have in your pantry if you want to make a lot of Middle Eastern food. Learn more about it here.
*** If you don't like touching food with your hands, you could instead mix the kale with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a gallon ziplock bag, press all the air out of the bag, and massage the bag for a couple minutes. But if you plan to store it in the fridge afterward, it's important to let the air back in the bag.

Storage suggestions: If you are planning on keeping some of the salad as left overs or packing it to take to work, it's best to mix up the dressing (lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, sumac, salt, and 2T olive oil) on the side. To pack up your salad, get out as many storage containers as will fit the salad. Massage the kale with 1T oil. Shake the dressing well and then divide it evenly between the container(s). Place the kale on top of the dressing, followed by the veggies, then the herbs, and then pack the pita chips in a sealed plastic bag on top of the greens. Once you're ready to eat, you can toss everything together and enjoy.

kale fattoushie

assyrian egg rolls | burek

Burek Egg Rolls

Whenever someone immigrates, gets engaged or married, or visits from out of town, my grandmother celebrates the occasion by frying up a big plate of burek, which she usually serves unceremoniously on a plate lined with paper towels, since everyone is always lurking around the stove waiting for her to lift them out of the deep fryer. Burek doesn't need to be served on fine china, dressed up with a fancy presentation, or served with a clever assortment of dipping sauces in order to be celebratory. It's just inherently so! And if you make these for your next party, they will be the first thing to go (seriously, even if you triple the recipe), so make sure you save yourself a few in the back of the refrigerator, because they're also fabulous left over (it's a very cold-leftover-pizza experience).

Burek / Assyrian Egg Rolls
Burek / Assyrian Egg Rolls
Burek / Assyrian Egg Rolls

This recipe is totally flexible—you can add more cheese, parsley, a clove or two of garlic, or a few pinches of allspice. My family loves to eat burek with salsa or Sriracha, but it's also delicious just on its own. You can even make a special vegetarian version, with mushrooms instead of beef; I've included a note with the recipe about how to make this substitution. There are other vegetarian versions made with mostly cheese. Assyrian chef Lana Shlimon, who cooks Lebanese and Iraqi Assyrian food, recommends mixing a combination of mild and briny cheeses, for instance feta and mozzarella.

If you'd like to make your burek ahead of time, you can either roll them up the night before and then fry them at the last minute, or fry them earlier in the day and then later crisp them up in the oven before serving.

If you're new to deep frying, don't be intimidated! The thing is, it's very easy if you know a few tricks. Just make sure to set up a safe deep fry station and to keep the heat at a constant temperature. If you do both, deep frying is a piece of cake. The easiest way to keep a constant temperature is to buy an inexpensive deep fry thermometer so that you can easily monitor and adjust the heat. As long as you keep it around 350°, the oil shouldn't sputter or smoke. But if you don't have a thermometer and need burek now, there are a few low tech workarounds. To keep your fry station safe, find a heavy pot, make sure you have several inches of space above the oil line so that it doesn't bubble over, and keep the pot toward the back of the stove.

Burek / Assyrian Egg Rolls


also known as borek or börek
yield: approximately 20 rolls
total time: 1 hour
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  • 2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil

  • 1 small onion (or half of a large onion), minced

  • 1 pound sirloin, minced finely into very small pieces (or ground) *

  • 1 cup loosely packed shredded mozzarella (not fresh mozzarella) *

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped parsley

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 package large wonton wrappers (1 pound / 20 to 21 wontons)

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons water in a small bowl

  • 1 to 2 quarts oil for deep frying (e.g., peanut, canola, olive oil, but not extra virgin)

Make the filling:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil has heated for a minute or two, add the minced onion and cook until it softens and becomes translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes.

  2. Once the minced onion has softened, turn the heat to medium-high and push the onion to the sides of the pan.

  3. Add the other tablespoon of neutral oil to the center of the pan and add the minced beef * to the center of the pan. Spread it out evenly and then let it sit there for about a minute while you season it with salt and pepper.

  4. After the beef has sat in the center for a minute, mix up the beef, trying not to disturb the onions, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pan, and let it sit for another minute or two. Continue this pattern until it has browned nicely and any pooling liquid has been cooked off, about 6-7 minutes.

  5. Mix together the onions and the beef if they haven't already mixed together.

  6. Take the beef and onions off the heat and let them cool (about 10 minutes).

  7. Stir in the mozzarella, parsley, and any additional salt and pepper.

Wrap the burek:

  1. Set up a safe fry station on the stove or in a dedicated deep fryer. Turn the heat to medium so that the oil slowly rises to 350° F and keep an eye on it while you work.

  2. Place one wrapper on a cutting board.

  3. Put a couple spoon-fulls of the filling (approximately 2 tablespoons—pace yourself for 20 rolls) in the center of the wrapper in a diagonal line, from corner to corner, rather than side to side. Leave a large border all the way around the filling so that you can wrap it up.

  4. Place the wrapper so that the filling looks horizontal from your perspective and fold over the two side corners so that they meet in the middle. Then fold the triangle facing you over the top, and then roll everything tightly into a cylinder away from yourself. Make sure you roll them snugly, so that they don't hold in big pockets of air.

  5. To seal the roll: raise the loose wonton flap, wet your fingers liberally, brush water all over the triangular wonton flap, and roll it back over until it sticks.

  6. Repeat with the remaining 19 or 20 rolls.

Fry the burek:

  1. Once the oil has reached 350° F, add a few rolls at a time and fry for about 5 minutes, until golden-brown. Flip the burek over if they aren't tumbling around on their own. Work in batches, don't crowd the oil, and adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 350° F.

  2. Once golden brown, remove the burek with a slotted spoon or spider and cool on a couple layers of paper towels.

* To make the vegetarian version, use 1 pound finely chopped mushrooms instead of minced beef and add an extra 1/2 cup of cheese. You'll need to cook the mushrooms until they've given up their liquid and have begun to brown.

Burek / Assyrian Egg Rolls