Tuesday, April 03, 2007

And-a One, And Fattoush

Ah, fickle Spring! You vacillate between chilly grey days and broad hints of summer's warmth. And though you threaten to bring back the snow later this week, today you bring us the sun, fresh breezes, and temperatures hovering close to 80. What's a girl to do?

Though I had planned to make a hearty carrot and parsnip soup this week in preparation for the colder weather, I found I simply couldn't resist making something lighter to celebrate the summery weather we had yesterday and today. And nothing says summer to me than fresh vegetables (or fruits) eaten raw, with but the merest hint of dressing.

Enter the humble fattoush, a simple salad from the Middle East.

Though we Americans may be able to break away from our usual lettuce-based salads once in a while, it's not often we do. This salad, though, needs no bed of lettuce to cradle the sunshiny-bright flavor of fresh ripe tomatoes and the cool, cleansing taste of cucumbers. You'll only find chunks of juicy vegetables, fresh herbs, a tangy lemon and garlic vinaigrette, and crisp shards of toasted pita here.

Oh, all right, I confess. I can't quite leave it at that. Even though the standard recipe for fattoush is vegan, I like a little bit of crumbled feta tossed on mine to round out the flavors and make this salad a meal unto itself. I'm sure it's not authentic, but my taste buds really don't mind.

I came home from work yesterday, flung open the windows, and proceeded to chop the vegetables and throw the salad together for a light and utterly satisfying dinner. And though I'd had another idea for lunch today, I decided to come home and enjoy the same thing all over again.

The next time you're at a Middle Eastern restaurant, you might get a side of fattoush to go with your hummus or falafel or shish kebab. Or you might just want to cut to the chase and enjoy this light version at home.


Fattoush

I learned the basic recipe from the July/August 1994 issue of Natural Health but have found it other places, too. This is something similar to what I usually make, though I didn't have so many fresh herbs for this particular version. The quantities here will make a large meal-sized salad for one person; to serve as a side salad, double or triple the quantities for 4-6 people. Eat as much as you like... it's healthy!

1 6-7" whole wheat pita, toasted until crisp
1 tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
6" cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 c minced fresh parsley
1 T minced fresh mint
1 T minced fresh chives
up to 1/4 c feta cheese (reduced-fat, if you can find it)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
pinch of black pepper

Break pita into small shards. Set aside.

In bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint, chives, and feta. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over salad. Toss. Top with pita shards.

Sit in the sunshine and enjoy!

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