It was day two in Abu Dhabi and we were having lunch at the Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana. After a tiring morning session of kayaking by the mangroves, we were famished. As soon as the plate of appetizers is set down before us, we attack. I help myself to a bit of fattoush, a Levantine dish, but used in Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine. With 'health' written all over it, fattoush is a salad made from several garden vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread mixed with herbs.
It is often considered a part of the Meze, which is a selection of small dishes served in the Middle East or in Levantine cuisine, where it is served at the beginning of all large-scale meals. Light and mildly sour, I cannot believe that I am relishing a plate of salad. I hear the crispy toasted pita bread crunch as I search my plate for more of them. Large pieces of cucumber, tomato, lettuce, onion, green capsicum, purslane, radish as well as pomegranate seeds, walnuts and toasted pita pieces blend well with the sumac which gives fattoush its mildly sour taste, mint, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, zaatar leaves, apple vinegar and pomegranate syrup.
The beauty of fattoush is that you can add or subtract ingredients as per your taste. “Feta, parsley, raddish, carrot, red pepper, black or green olives and garlic are other ingredients that you can add,” says chef Abu Halab. Also considered as a Ramadan plate, it can be customised in every country in different ways.
Did you know?
Fattoush is called peasant salad in English, because peasants and farmers in the Kadisha canyon villages of North Lebanon would prepare this salad by throwing in whatever spring or summer harvest they had into the bowl. They would eat it with their hands, similar to the way Bedouins would eat rice and biryani.