Fattoush platter recipe turns the Middle Eastern bread salad into a party

Fattoush Platter

Total time:35 mins

Servings:6 to 8 (makes 12 cups)

Total time:35 mins

Servings:6 to 8 (makes 12 cups)

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Language evolves, and so do recipes. This one provides an example of both.

When making it — and even more so, when writing about it — I kept thinking about an old friend, a former copy editor colleague who, like many of us, is perhaps a touch pedantic. I was thinking particularly about how anytime food writers at our publication would describe the restaurant trend of reworking a dish into its separate components, he would go on a rant if they dared to use the word “deconstruct,” or any of its forms. Deconstruction should apply only to the specific form of literary and philosophical analysis that takes the name, he argued, not simply to the idea of ​​breaking anything into its parts.

As much as I like to uphold some traditional ideas about language — don’t get me started on “literally,” for example — I never bought this one. Perhaps it’s because I never studied literary or philosophical analysis in the same way he did, but I never understood the harm of the more informal usage. More importantly, I could never come up with a better term to quickly convey to most readers (especially those without philosophy degrees) that, say, a pastry chef was playing with form by presenting separate dollops of lemon curd, marshmallow cream and shortbread as” lemon meringue pie.”

Anyway, no offense, John, but the recipe I’m excited about this week is a deconstructed fattoush, the Middle Eastern bread salad. Traditionally made with leftover pita, seasonal vegetables and a dressing that includes the tart spice sumac, fattoush is as popular throughout the Levant as panzanella is in Italy.

I always think of fattoush as a casual, throw-together-what-looks-good kind of affair. In her beautiful new cookbook “In Praise of Veg,” Alice Zaslavsky takes the casual approach even further: rather than layer or toss the fattoush, she suggests arranging its elements — tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, toasted pita chips and a lemony dressing — in separate piles on a big platter and letting your guests congregate at will. To add some protein and make this qualify as a main course, I like to add a pile of chickpeas — a legume beloved not only in my house, but in the homeland of fattoush.

Since the idea here is that everybody around the table gets to make the salad that they want, building their perfect-to-them bites, perhaps deconstruct isn’t the right word after all. With this recipe, you get to reconstruct fattoush.

Make Ahead: The pita chips can be made and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days before making the platter.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 5 days, preferably with the pitas and dressing kept separate from the rest of the salad.

Where to Buy: Sumac can be found in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and international grocers, as well as online.

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  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely grated or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, preferably a mix of shapes, sizes and colors, corded if needed and cut into rounds and/or wedges
  • 3 to 4 small cucumbers (12 ounces total), sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored and sliced
  • One (15-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 1/2 medium red onion (3 ounces), finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac (may substitute za’atar spice blend)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • 4 small pita pockets or 2 large pita breads (6 ounces), cut into triangles
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Make the salad: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper until combined. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper as needed.

On a large serving platter, arrange the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, chickpeas and onions. Sprinkle with the sumac and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Make the crispy pita: While the salad sits and the flavors meld, on a large, rimmed baking sheet, toss the pita triangles with the olive oil and spread them out. Toast for about 10 minutes, turning as needed, until golden brown and crisp.

Arrange the pita triangles on the platter. Sprinkle with the herbs and serve with the lemon wedges and the remaining dressing.

Per serving (1 1/2 cups), based on 8

Calories: 299; Total Fat: 19 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 290 mg; Carbohydrates: 30 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 6 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “In Praise of Veg” by Alice Zaslavsky (Appetite, 2022).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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