Na’ama’s Fattoush

I don’t know how familiar you are with Yotam Ottolenghi, but the man has brought Middle Eastern food to the States in a powerful way. I don’t think he has a restaurant here in the US (correct me if I’m wrong on that?), but his two books, Plenty and Jerusalem, have opened the eyes of the American chef to the wonders of Israeli eating.

In a Julie & Julia-esque way (but without the time constraints), I decided to cook through Jerusalem, after my husband gave me the book a few months ago. Since then, I’ve been trying to incorporate a few recipes each month. If I had all the money in the world, I might be tempted to do so more often.

Last weekend, we tried Na’ama’s Fattoush. Fattoush is a salad that includes vegetables and bread. I withheld the bread, so that I could eat it, and had Joshua add it on his own. I also used half a small red onion, instead of 2 green onions, and I soaked the thin slices in cold water to remove some of the overpowering onion flavor. I’m sure my social circles thanked me, inwardly.

I had to do without the sumac and dried mint, as I could not locate them in our town yet. I will be trying to find them in the healthier (i.e., more expensive) stores sometime soon. I’m sure that would make a world of difference.

NA’AMA’S FATTOUSH

Serves 6

Scant 1 cup Greek yogurt & 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. whole milk OR 1 2/3 cup buttermilk
2 large, stale Turkish flatbread or naan or pita bread
3 large tomatoes, cut into 2/3-inch dice
3 1/2 oz. radishes, thinly sliced
3 Lebanese or mini cucumbers, peeled and chopped into 2/3-inch dice
2 green onions OR 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/ oz. fresh mint
Scant 1 oz. flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. dried mint
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 Tbsp. cider or white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sumac or more to taste, to garnish

If using the yogurt and milk (rather than the buttermilk by itself), start at least 3 hours and up to a day in advance by placing both in a bowl. Whisk well and leave in a cool place or in the fridge until bubbles form on the surface. What you get is a kind of homemade buttermilk, but less sour.
Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add your fermented yogurt mixture or commercial buttermilk, followed by the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavors to combine.
Spoon the fatuous into serving bowls, drizzle with some olive oil, and garnish generously with sumac.

Joshua says: 10 out of 10, which isn’t surprising, since his stint in Israel definitely gave him a taste for Middle Eastern cooking. He said the pita, soaked in the milky dressing, took on almost a meaty chew, which he found most pleasant. Myself, I would have rated it a bit lower, as I found it lacking in flavor. Perhaps using real buttermilk would help? And I’m sure the use of both dried spices (sumac & mint), which I didn’t have, would help immensely. I’ll be making this again.

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