My first experience with bread salad was while watching a cooking show on The Food Network and seeing one of the chefs make a panzanella. Croutons in a salad is nothing new, of course, and Caesar salad, with its Parmesan croutons, is one of my favorites. But this was something altogether different. The bread cubes were folded into the dish in such a way that they were actually supposed to absorb the dressing. That sounded delicious!
And so I made the recipe with big hunks of sourdough bread and it did not disappoint. The concept, though, is not restricted to Italian panzanella. Fattoush is the Middle Eastern version of a bread salad and most typically uses toasted or fried pita bread. The actual vegetables in the salad can vary based on what you like and what you have in the house as can the dressing.
The salad does typically use raw ingredients like lettuce, cucumber, radishes and onions but I took it a step further with a quick sauteed version. A few years ago I was having lunch at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York and they served a salad of quickly sauteed veggies. I was hooked. And so I combined garlic, tomatoes and fresh spring asparagus in this dish. Sumac, with it's sour acidic taste, is typical in a fattoush and I love it in dressings in general. But I also gave my salad a bit of extra freshness with some lemon juice.
You can dress this with a tahini sauce or vinaigrette but I found that the combination of olive oil, tomato and lemon juice created enough sauce without the need for additional dressing. Enjoy!
- 1 Pita bread round
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 Tomato, seeded and diced
- 8 - 10 Spears asparagus
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 Teaspoon sumac
- Salt and pepper to taste
Lightly toast the pita round in a toaster or oven and cut into bite size pieces.
Add the olive oil and minced garlic to a skillet or cast iron pan and saute for a minute, just until the garlic becomes slightly translucent. Be careful not to burn it. Add the diced tomato and continue cooking on medium low heat for another minute.
If the asparagus stems are thick, peel them with a vegetable peeler, then slice into thin diagonal pieces.
Add to the pan and continue cooking for another minute.
Season with the sumac, salt and pepper. Stir in the toasted pita bread pieces and cook for an additional minute or two until the pita absorbs the flavors. Finish with the lemon juice and serve warm.