This is my fail-safe salad which I bring out at all manner of occasions and not once have there ever been leftovers and everyone always loves it, even my children will eat a bit of this!
Its one of those salads that can be eaten as a lunch on its own or alongside more sinful dishes. I always make this when I have a buffet dinner style thing also as it makes for a more interesting salad than the standard lettuce, tomato and cucumber type dish.
Its Arabic in its origin and is one of those dishes that has regional and personal variations in its ingredients. Some things are always consistent: the astringent lemon and olive oil based dressing, the crumbled bread, the cucumber and tomato and Mint/Parsley base of the salad itself.
A few notes on the recipe; Please do try to get the Lebanese cucumbers, they are superior in taste and once you try them you will never want to eat a huge supermarket bruiser again. When you chop the tomatoes, don’t drain the juice away! Just tip the whole lot in to the salad bowl, juices and all.
The Sumac which is listed as an ingredient, is a rusty coloured ground spice which adds astringency to the dish as well as adding an attractive russet fleckle. Its worth searching this out again in ethnic stores – not an essential ingredient but a worthwhile one for sure.
Try to use a large shallow dish for this – I use a glass oven proof casserole dish, the main reason being that you don’t want all the bread to go completely soggy by the time you go back for seconds and having things spread out a bit more helps this.
Some people like to add some chopped pine kernels to the final dish. I have omitted this as I find Pine Kernels restrictively expensive and they do not add equivalent value in taste to the dish.
1 Cucumber or 3-4 baby Lebanese cucumbers (can be bought in Arab/ethnic stores usually) cut into small chunks
4 ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks, juice saved, or 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 small bunch of mint chopped finely (leaves removed from stalks)
1 bunch of parsley, chopped finely
100 grams of lambs lettuce (optional)
10 leaves of Baby Gem or Moraine Lettuce, shredded finely
2 large pitta breads, split and opened out or 1 large Arabic bread split and opened.
Juice from 2 lemons
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil (you can use less if you like)
½ tsp Sumac (optional)
1/ Crush the Garlic with some salt in a mortar and pestle and combine with the other dressing ingredients in small jar or suitable container.. You can just crush the garlic if you don’t have a mortar and pestle
2/ Open out the bread and put under a hot grill or into a hot oven for a minute until crispy and brown. Keep your eye on it though as it burns quickly. You want to be able to lightly crumble it and for it to lose any softness.
3/Put the other ingredients in a suitable serving bowl and mix with your hands or some wide salad forks.
4/ Add the bread to the salad and pour over the dressing and mix.
5/ Serve immediately.
I tend to add the bread right at the last minute before serving as I like it to retain a little bit of crispiness but some people add a bit of the dressing to the bread in a separate dish for it to soften and soak up the lemon dressing before adding this and the remaining dressing to the salad.