Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Oh man, I was hanging out.
A week or so ago, there was baba ganoush, closely followed with tabouli - not the version where burghul (cracked wheat) dominates, but the parsley salad favoured by those of Lebanese extraction, where burghul is just a hint, not a highlight.
Of course, there was plenty of flatbread to scoop up the garlicky, smoky eggplant paste, which inevitably meant left-over bread, which took to loafing about our bread basket, until I recalled a recipe that would bring gainful employment to the idle flatbread. A recipe based on stale flatbread being given a makeover into a beautiful new tastier life. One that I hadn't made in many years, but suddenly wanted.
Stale bread dishes abound in old cookbooks, a relic of a time when thrift was paramount and every crumb had to be put to use. Every cuisine has a way of putting to good use leftover bread, whether in sweet or savoury fashion, Mexicans have tortilla soup, Spanish and Portuguese migas, the English, bread and butter pudding as well as summer pudding. Eastern Europeans turn old rye bread into kvas, which is the soured base for a variety of soups and also a drink. The French use stale bread to make panade, which is a binding agent used in certain recipes.
The Middle East is no exception, with a wonderfully, healthy Levantine salad called fattoush, not all that dissimilar to the Italian panzanella, whereby pita bread is either toasted or fried and mixed with a melange of whatever vegetables are to hand, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and spiced with citrussy sumac.
1 regular stale pita bread, split in two
3 Lebanese cucumbers
4 vine ripened tomatoes
1 green pepper
2 or 3 spring (green) onions
bunch parsley, leaves picked from stalks
juice 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
1/2 teaspoon sumac
salt & fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 200c and place split pita bread on oven racks with the insides facing up and toast until golden brown, about 10 minutes, remove and cool. Peel alternating strips of skin off the cucumbers, making a pattern, cut each one in half and remove the seeds. Cut each half in two, then into chunks. Cut tomatoes into similar size chunks as the cucumber, dice the green pepper into 1cm chunks. Thinly slice the spring onions, including some of the green. Finely chop the parsley then tip all the vegetables into a large bowl and crumble the toasted pitta bread into the bowl and mix together. Measure the lemon juice and combine with an equal or slightly greater measure of olive oil, add the garlic and season with sumac, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, mix well, leave for five minutes, check seasoning, mix well again and serve.
Note: I didn't have sumac to hand, the salad won't suffer if you don't use it. I also used more olive oil than lemon juice.