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A Break in the Storm

I’m always the weather skeptic: when friends and coworkers are going on and on about a looming storm, it’s always me that assures them the weather channel is sensational, and people have nothing else to talk about. Just grab your raincoat and call it a day. But this week we had some legitimately major weather in the Bay Area. When I saw businesses putting out sandbags and the commute slowing to a crawl, I gave in and held my tongue.  Now generally people turn to comfort foods like soups, stews, or cheesy casseroles when the weather forces you indoors, but lately I’ve been craving simple salads–a little color amongst the gray, gloomy days.

There’s this wonderful Mediterranean restaurant back in Marin called Insalata’s and they serve the best fattoush I’ve ever had. After trying it a few times, I set out to duplicate it, and have come pretty darn close with the recipe I’ll share with you here in a minute. The nice thing about fattoush is, regardless of the season, you can find most of the ingredients in your local market.  And I love that, with the addition of baked pita chips and garbanzo beans, it’s a nice meal in and of itself. Oh, and  most importantly: the fresh, citrusy dressing brightens up even the gloomiest of days.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad and there are numerous variations out there.  It’s one of those salads that people tend to get protective over–evaluating how authentic it is from any given restaurant. Traditionally, fattoush is made with parsley, mint, purslane, and sumac. Purslane is still a bit tough to find in the store here (although you can sometimes score at the farmer’s market), so my version uses arugula instead. Feel free to use any bitter, earthy greens that you like. And instead of sumac, I use fresh lemon.

I’m curious: do you have a favorite Middle Eastern recipe? I love hummus, baba ghanoush, and tabbouleh but would love to hear some of your favorites. So here’s to fresh, crisp salads and a not-too-gray workday ahead.

Fattoush
Dress right before serving, so the pita chips don’t become soggy. And as with any salad, add the dressing slowly and taste as you go.

Ingredients:
3/4 cups Citrus Dressing (recipe follows)
2 cups packed romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup arugula
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, cut into 1/2 pieces
1 cup diced cucumbers, peeled
1/2 cup chickpeas (rinse)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3 Tbsp. finely chopped green onion (both white and green parts)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large whole wheat pita breads
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat the oven to 325 F, and place the pita bread on a baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes until dry and slightly crisp. When cool, break into pieces.

In a large salad bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the pita chips. Slowly add the dressing and the pita chips at the very end. Toss and serve.

Citrus Dressing
Ingredients:
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (should take about 2 juicy lemons)
1/3 cup good-quality, fruity olive oil

Directions: In a small bowl, combine the juice from two fresh lemons with 1/3 cup olive oil. Whisk and add salt and pepper to taste.

Salad serves: 4 people

  1. Posted January 24, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    oh, this looks delicious! beautifully photographed, as well.

  2. Audrey
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I just came across a very colorful Israeli salad and had googled out a couple recipes to try. Low and behold, here comes another one that I used to eat when living in SF. I’m taking notes and will put this in my “to make” list. Thanks!

  3. Posted January 24, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Fattoush is my favorite salad. I have never found a recipe that I liked like in my favorite Lebanese resto in Montréal. I’ll try yours. Hope it will come close to it :)

  4. Posted January 24, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Can you tell me where is the restaurant you are talking about?

  5. megang
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Helene. Thanks so much for the comments! You know, I tried to put a link to the restaurant and google was giving me very strange warning messages … so anyway, it’s called Insalata’s and it’s in San Anselmo, CA about 15 miles North of San Francisco. Although relatively simple, it’s one of their signature dishes.

  6. Posted January 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I love fattoush and have bookmarked this recipe for future use. What a great little bite of summer in our dark Canadian winter!

  7. Posted January 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Fattoush is one of my most favorite salads ever! This looks great. I love the crunch of the pita cheips.

  8. Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    The dish looks amazing…can’t wait to give it a try. And the photos are gorgeous!

  9. Posted January 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Beautiful photographs!! Love your blog!!

  10. Posted January 31, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Baba Ghanoush – or just about anything involving spices, eggplant and pita for dipping. Yummy!!! Do you ever go to The Warming Hut for tea? I love that place!

  11. megang
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    You know, Kelsey…I’ve never been! When I was training for my marathon, we ran down there a lot and people would duck out and get treats, but I was always racing for the first shower. Thanks for reminding me though…been on my list for awhile!

  12. Posted February 6, 2010 at 4:36 am

    This salad is well balanced and the perfect meal. Not sure I have had Fattoush, but I would dig it. I do love mediterranean food. I am the same way when it comes to sensationalism about the weather….can’t stand it. Weather talk is kinda dull, the weather will do what it needs to and all we can do is prepare! Glad to hear you weathered the storm with this salad!

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