Tasting Jerusalem: With Naama’s Fattoush, It’s All About the Details
A couple of weeks ago on the Splendid Table, LA Times Food Editor Russ Parsons wrote, “The thing that’s really great about this book is that he takes what might seem familiar and just throws a twist on it. When you cook it, it’s an act of exploration because you’re doing things that you know, the ingredients are fairly familiar, the techniques are fairly familiar, and then boom, there’s this very new and exciting result that really makes you want to cook more into it.”
He was talking about Ottolenghi’s Plenty, but he hit it on the head for Jerusalem,too. It’s the twists that set these recipes apart. And it’s never more true than with Naama’s Fattoush, the marquee recipe for this month’s salad theme for Tasting Jerusalem.
As you flip through the Jerusalem cookbook, Naama’s Fattoush is one of the first dishes that really grabs you. Sourced from co-author Sami Tamimi’s mother, it’s a gorgeous bread salad version of the cucumber-tomato-onion combo I talked about last week. It’s familiar, but it’s the twists that make it different – dried mint, the pita, yogurt or buttermilk dressing and a sprinkling of sumac. The details are not optional. They take that basic cucumber-tomato-onion combo to another level, one that’ll put this salad in regular rotation for the rest of the summer.
The devil really is in the details here, so a few tips:
If your pita aren’t truly stale, they’ll sog out. I decided I only had time to stop at one store so I picked up a fresh bag of Orowheat flatbreads, rather than true pita, and even after sitting out on the counter most the day, they weren’t quite dried out enough. Take a tip from Carol at In Medias Recipe (thanks, Carol!) – tear up the pita and toast them in pan.
If you’re using standard American grocery store low-fat buttermilk, the 1 2/3 cup called for in the original recipe as documented below will be way too much and your pita will for sure sog out. Start with ¾ cup and go with what looks best to you. After two rounds of salad, I think the right texture and tang for us is going to be yogurt cut with buttermilk. I also preferred cherry tomatoes to regular, especially since I’ve got a hanging basket of them just coming on.
BTW, if you haven’t joined us already, Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining the Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.
- scant 1 cup / 200 g Greek yogurt and cup plus 2 tbsp / 200 ml whole milk, or 1⅔ cups buttermilk (replacing both yogurt and milk)
- 2 large stale Turkish flatbread or naan (9 oz / 250 g in total)
- 3 large tomatoes (13 oz / 380 g in total), cut into -inch / 1.5cm dice (or 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved – my preference)
- 3 oz / 100 g radishes, thinly sliced
- 3 Lebanese or mini cucumbers (9 oz / 250 g in total), peeled and chopped into -inch / 1.5cm dice
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 15 g fresh mint
- 25 g flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp dried mint
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup / 60 ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
- 2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
- tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sumac or more to taste, to garnish
- If using yogurt and milk, 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 toast over medium heat, if not stale. 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 fattoush into serving bowls, drizzle with some olive oil, and garnish generously with sumac.
Reprinted with permission from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.