Using up bits of stale bread in dishes both sweet and savory is a frugal cook's trick that's as old as bread itself. Though less well known than, say, Thanksgiving stuffing or bread pudding, bread salads fall in this category.
These satisfying salads, like Italian Panzanella or this Middle Eastern fattoush, are made by tossing together leftover bread, colorful vegetables, and a tangy dressing.
What Is Fattoush?
Fattoush is a version of bread salad made throughout the Middle East using leftover pita bread. The pita flatbreads are cut into pieces and either fried or baked before being tossed with fresh vegetables and dressing.
I like baking the pita since this avoids the need for a vat of hot oil. Baking also gives you small chips that add a delightful crunch to the salad. The chips are so addictive you’ll find yourself making them often, for all kinds of purposes.
How to Prepare the Pita
Use scissors to snip the pita rounds into small squares and rectangles, then toss them with olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet to bake. Don’t worry about whether they’re in a single layer or clustered together. Stir and flip them a couple of times during baking until they’re golden and crisp.
Ingredients for Fattoush
Assemble the salad with cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, scallions, and red onion, but wait until just before serving to toss it with the dressing so that everything stays crisp. Be sure to use plenty of mint and lemon juice!
All together, you have one of summer's most refreshing bowls.
Make-Ahead Steps for Fattoush
Start to finish, this salad comes together in about 30 minutes, making it an easy meal to throw together on a weeknight. Even so, there are some steps that can be done ahead of time to make your weeknights even easier:
- Prepare the pita chips up to several days ahead. Keep them in an airtight container (a large canning jar is great for this) at room temperature. If they seem a little soft or stale when you're ready to make your salad, just pop them back in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up again.
- Chop all the vegetables—except the tomatoes!—up to a day ahead. Toss the chopped vegetables together in an airtight container and store in the fridge. Wait to cut the tomatoes until just before serving for best flavor and texture.
Make This Salad Your Own
Feel free to swap the veggies for what you have on hand. Just about any ripe summer vegetable would be great in this salad.
Likewise, you can make the salad dressing with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. For an even more authentic Middle Eastern experience, add purslane and a few pinches of sumac to your dressing!
Try These Other Middle Eastern Salads!
- Jeweled Rice Salad
- Cucumber Salad with Tahini Dressing
- Mediterranean Chickpea Bowls
- Orange Blossom Carrot Salad
- For the pita chips:
- 2 rounds pita bread (8- to 12-inches)
- Olive oil (for toasting the pita)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- For the salad:
- 4 Persian, pickling, or other small cucumbers, thinly sliced (or 1 English cucumber, trimmed, halved vertically, and thinly sliced)
- 4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sliced scallions, white and light green parts
- For the dressing:
- Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Large handful fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
- Large handful fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
Prepare the pita chips:
Set the oven to 375°F. With kitchen shears, cut the pita round into 1-inch pieces. In a bowl, sprinkle the pita with just enough olive oil so a drop lands on each piece. Toss well. Sprinkle with salt and toss again.
Toast the pita chips:
Spread the pieces out on a rimmed baking sheet. It's fine if the pieces overlap or cluster together. Bake for 2 minutes, then toss the chips. Bake another 2 minutes and toss again. Remove any pieces that are starting to look crisp and golden. Continue baking another 1 to 2 minutes until all the pieces are crisp and golden. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the vegetables:
In a large bowl combine the cucumbers, radishes, large and cherry tomatoes, scallions, and red onion.
Dress the salad just before serving:
Sprinkle the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper over the vegetables and toss gently but thoroughly. Add the mint and parsley and toss again. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Add the pita chips and toss gently to avoid crushing them. Serve immediately.