It's July, aka the panzanella season I was dreaming of back in February when Boston was nine feet under (the last of that snow melted today, btw. Believe it). I've been enjoying plenty but there's another bread salad on the block we need to talk about - fattoush.
Before proceeding let me offer a disclaimer: I have little knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine. This salad in no way purports to be 'authentic'. It's probably far from it. But we're not following any rules here. No, rather my full education in fattoush has come from one Lebanese restaurant around the corner. When I first moved to my current neighborhood I became a frequent take-out customer, ordering this curiously named salad over and over again. The herbs-to-greens ratio kept me coming back. To whoever decided to make a parsley salad with bit of lettuce, instead of the other way around, I bow down. This version cuts out greens entirely though you could certainly fold some in. Whatever you do, don't skimp on the parsley, even it feels outrageous to spend 10 minutes plucking leaves from the whole darn bunch.
Besides heaps of herbs, sumac is the other staple of fattoush that might be unfamiliar. Before trying this salad, I'd never had it. In fact I still haven't tried it in anything else (if you have ideas, please post them in the comments!). Sumac is lemony, sour, and mild. Three tablespoons might seem like an absurd amount of any spice to put on a salad. I promise though it's not overwhelming. Think of it as you would sprinkles - aim for full coverage.
Finally a note on halloumi. You'll see this popping up in the summer since it's known primarily as a grilling cheese. Since we have no room for a grill (tragic, I know) I sear in a cast iron skillet instead. It works just as well and us city dwellers don't have to miss out.
Fattoush Salad with Halloumi + Figs
- 2 8-inch rounds pita bread
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 pint figs, quartered and stems removed
- 4 oz. halloumi cheese
- 3-4 cups parsley leaves, stems removed, roughly chopped (leaves from one bunch)
- 3 Tbs. sumac
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Sea salt
- Toast the pita - place pita in a 400 degree oven; toast until crisp enough that you can crack into shards with your hands, about 10 minutes (alternatively you can grill the bread).
- Sear the halloumi - place cheese in a hot cast iron skillet over medium heat, drizzled with a bit of olive oil; sear halloumi until nicely browned, then flip and repeat; about 3-4 minutes per side. Allow to cool for a minute, then cut into small cubes.
- Assemble the salad - Using your hands break pita into small shards; add tomatoes, cucumber, figs, parsley, halloumi, sumac, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with salt and toss. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving to allow pita to soften slightly.