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Like a dog with a bone, this fattoush is a salad that I just can’t drop.

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It started with all that flatbread that a guest gave me one evening. Squirreled away between layers of parchment, wrapped in a big plastic bag, and secured with several rubber bands, it taunted me from my freezer. Armed with Einat Admony’s green fattoush recipe and a  sumac dressing, I devised a plan to free up valuable ice cream space: every week, I  pull out a floppy lavash square, douse with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and sumac, and brown to a crisp. I smash those now-brittle squares with the palm of my hand and the satisfying crackle of bread shattering onto the baking sheet. A nice pile of crackly crushed flatbread shards is what makes fattoush fattoush, the salad’s name derived from Arabic fatta - to crush.

And so began my addiction.

The first fattoush I made was fairly traditional and felt like a romp through the garden, or as close to a garden romp as you can get in the middle of the city — the Union Square greenmarket for vegetables and greens and even some weeds.

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Now, eating weeds is a new thing for me, but when I couldn’t find the watercress called for in Einat’s recipe, I grabbed purslane because it  looked similar. Sort of. Before you think I’ve gone all urban forager on you, no, I didn’t yank up leaves sprouting from sidewalk cracks. Instead I picked up a large bundle, roots still attached, at the greenmarket near work and dropped it right into my canvas tote. At home, I washed the purslane thoroughly – soak, swish, drain, repeat, repeat, repeat – and released the leaves by holding each stem from the top and running my fingers down to the bottom, knocking each delicate bundle off in quick succession.

Purslane is a succulent and tastes similar to baby spinach, but its leaves are a little thicker and spongier, its bite a bit sour. I found that after three or four days, purslane can get a little slimy, as if you were biting into a very young jade plant (not that I’ve done that, but you get what I mean, right?), so use it up quickly.

Fattoush

To the weeds and greens, for that first fattoush, I added large handfuls of herbs, peeled cucumbers, and thinly shaved radishes, all straight from the market. To give the fattoush a bit more heft, I added feta. The next time I made it, I added grilled chicken breast.

As the summer’s slipped away and the weather’s turned downright blustery, my salad has evolved. I’ve noticed that as the temperatures outside have dipped, I’ve been toasting the flatbread in the oven a little longer, relishing the extra heat in the kitchen, relishing the even crispier crisps. I’ve swapped out delicate greens for hardier ones, skipped the herbs, and added some of my favorite orchard fruits.

This weekend, while the oil-slicked, sumac-sprinkled lavash was browning, I massaged a pile of kale into wilted submission, sliced an Asian pear, and mellowed half a red onion with a brief soak in white vinegar. I whacked the seeds out of a pomegranate and shook together some dressing. I nearly burned my hand as I pressed down on the straight-from-the-oven sheet of lavash, crushing it to shards.

fall fattoush

This fall fattoush is not nearly as dramatic as I’m making it sound, but it does have more of an in-your-face quality than the summer version. Here’s a closer look.

Autumn fattoush

After two seasons of fattoush under my belt, I’m down to my last three lavash squares. I’m hoping they’ll last me through Thanksgiving.

Fattoush

Fattoush is the Middle East’s answer to panzanella, with croutons made of crispy toasted lavash. The inspiration for this salad came from Einat Admony’s version published in the Wall Street Journal. I based the salad dressing on the one in this fattoush recipe in Bon Appétit.

My favorite feta is a Bulgarian sheep’s milk one from Pastures of Eden- it’s delicate and less salty than Greek feta; you can find it at Trader Joe’s. Or skip the feta and slice up a grilled chicken breast or two. Make sure not to dress the salad until right before serving. 

Makes 4 servings, give or take

- Summer version:

- 3/4 lb purslane (2 C picked leaves, loosely packed and overflowing)

- 2 C roughly chopped arugula

- 1 C roughly chopped parsley

- 1 C roughly chopped mint

- 8 French breakfast radishes, thinly sliced (I use a mandoline)

- 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeds scooped out and cut into half moons

- 6 spring onions, thinly sliced

- Fall version:

- 6 C roughly chopped kale

- 2 T olive oil

- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

- 3 T white vinegar

- 3T  water

- 1 t kosher salt

-1 pomegranate

- 3/4 C roasted, salted almonds

- 2 apples, Asian pears, or Bosc pears, thinly sliced

- sumac dressing (recipe below; you will not need all of it)

- 3/4 C crumbled feta (optional)

- lavash crisps (recipe below)

Summer version:

Toss: Mix together the greens, herbs, radishes, cucumbers, and spring onions and toss with 1/2 cup of dressing. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.

Top. Crumble the feta over the salad and sprinkle with lavash crisps.

Fall version:

Massage. With your hands, massage the kale with olive oil and let sit for at least 15 minutes until the kale starts to soften.

Soak. In a small bowl, mix the red onion, vinegar, water, and salt and let soak for at least 15 minutes until the liquid turns light pink and the onions are pickled enough that you can eat them straight from the bowl.

Whack. Cut the pomegranate in half lengthwise. Hold one half in your palm, skin side up. With a wooden spoon, whack the skin over a large bowl until all of the seeds fall out. You will make a mess. Pour water into the bowl over the seeds – any membranes will float to the top and you can easily skim them off.

Chop. Roughly chop the almonds.

Toss. Mix together the kale, drained red onion, pomegranate seeds, and apples or pears with 1/2 cup of dressing. Taste and add more dressing if necessary – because of the kale, you might need up to 2/3 cup of dressing .

Top. Crumble the feta over the salad and sprinkle with chopped almonds and lavash crisps.

***

Sumac dressing

Adapted from this fattoush recipe in Bon Appétit. This dressing is delightfully puckery and helps tie whatever vegetables you use with the sumac-dotted lavash crisps. You might be tempted to use it as a marinade for chicken and I wouldn’t blame you. 

Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups

- 4 t ground sumac, soaked in 4 t warm water for 15 minutes

- 1/4 C fresh lemon juice

- 2 T  pomegranate molasses

- 2 t red wine vinegar

- 3/4 C extra virgin olive oil

- 1 1/2 t kosher salt

Shake. Pour all ingredients into a jar and shake.

 ***

Lavash crisps

The trick here is to toast pieces that are crispy enough to stand up to the dressing without getting soggy. Some recipes have your fry the lavash, but I prefer to generously (generously) brush it with oil and and them bake until quite brown. I’ve found myself eating these out of hand, so you might want to make more than you’ll need for your fattoush. 

Makes 1 1/2 cups

- 2 large lavash (approximately 12×12) or 3-4 pitas

- 2-3 T olive oil (or more)

- 1 t sumac (or more)

- 1 t kosher salt

Brush. If using pita, split each into two thin rounds. Brush olive oil on both sides of the bread – this is not the time to be stingy with your oil. Sprinkle one side with sumac and salt.

Bake. Lay the bread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until the bread browns. Pita might take slightly longer because it is thicker.

Break. After it cools, press down on the brittle bread to crush it into bite-sized pieces.

Store. The crisps will keep for several weeks in an airtight container. If they start to go stale, just pop them in the oven for a few minutes to crisp them back up.

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In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not ripping apart pieces of cold roast chicken and dipping them into a jar of mustard vinaigrette, licking my fingers before swiping them on my pants and reaching for another key stroke. No. No, I’m not.

Ok, I am.

But hear me out. It all started with a date that never was.  It was a blind one, and we had planned to meet at Buvette for coffee. I waded through the humidity from Union Square, and just a few blocks from the gastrothèque, I received this text: “This is too far west. Can we meet at Starbucks in Union Square instead?” Um, no. And I politely replied, “Let’s do it another day.” We rescheduled.

By this time, I was at Buvette’s door and, date or not, I wasn’t going to pass it up. Taking refuge from the swamp called July in New York, I pulled myself up to the bar for a glass of bibonade, Jody Williams’ rosé infused with fruit – in this case plums – poured over ice and topped with champagne. As I tried to find a comfortable perch on the wobbly wooden stool, a plate of bread doused in olive oil was placed in front of me followed by a fresh salad of lettuces, watercress, radishes, cucumbers, potatoes, and thin haricot verts (both ends snipped as only the French do) liberally drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette.

I set to work on the salad, pushing vegetables onto the oyster fork-sized fork with the butter knife-sized knife. Everything is diminutive at Buvette, from the name itself to the menu booklets that fit in your palm to the tables for two that encourage knee bumping and hand grazing. (I’ll have to come back with a date who actually shows up.)

The heavy cooking takes place downstairs, and as the menu shifted from lunch to dinner around 4 pm, a parade of aprons ascended with large bowls of prepared ingredients that were passed over the bar to white oxford-clad ladies and gents. As I nibbled with abandon with my mini-silverware, I watched servers thinly slice piles of translucent Prosciutto onto toast, grill croques of all types, and scoop lightly marinated shredded carrots onto a plate.

There was no dessert menu – just a glistening tarte tatin and a bowl of chocolate mousse. I love a good tatin (be it apple or pear or tomato or, well, tomato), but some days, only chocolate will do. Amidst the silver platters, below the pressed iron ceiling times, just a little too close to my neighbors, I nursed my coffee along with a plate of nearly-noir haphazardly-heaped mousse topped with whipped cream. As I lingered, I flipped through a copy of the Buvette cookbook and within minutes, had it added to my bill, paying extra for the immediacy, a signature, a hole drilled through the nearly 300 pages, and a leather strap laced through.

On my way out the door, I said au revoir to no one in particular. A bientôt. I’ll be back soon. 

Inspired by my visit, I invited friends over for dinner later in that week. On Friday afternoon after work, I filled my canvas bag with greenmarket goodies, stopped by Breads, and felt like a Frenchie with the crisp pointed edges of a pair of baguettes threatening to poke someone if I turned around too quickly. I snapped off a quignon as I walked to the subway, gnawing away at the crust as I dug for my metrocard. When I got home, I roasted the chicken that the night before I had seasoned with herbs and salt, washed some leaves, sliced some vegetables, grated some carrots, and rolled out dough for a rhubarb galette (based loosely on Alice Water’s recipe). We drank a delicate rosé from France (Olga Raffoult Chinon Rosé). And then a more assertive one from South Africa (Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé).

And I left the dishes for the morning and the bottles on the table, and I ate leftover salad for breakfast in the middle of the mess.

Buvette Roast Chicken Salad with haricots certs and mustard vinaigrette

If you want to hear Jody Williams speak about her cookbook and restaurants (she opened a Buvette in Paris too!), listen to her interview on Radio Cherry Bombe. And just a few days ago, Sam Sifton published in the New York Times a few more recipes from the cookbook – here you go. You’re welcome!

Roast chicken salad and haricots verts with mustard vinaigrette

Adapted from Jody Williams’ Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. The only change I made was to add cucumbers (the photo above doesn’t have potatoes). I used a variety of lettuces that I found at the greenmarket – I think that a little endive or radicchio would be really nice too.

Serves 4 (you may have some leftover chicken)

- 8 small waxy potatoes

- coarse salt

- 3/4 lb haricots verts or regular green beans, both ends trimmed

- 4 large handfuls of salad greens – I used Boston/bibb, red leaf, and some watercress micro greens

- freshly ground pepper

- 1/2 C mustard vinaigrette (recipe below)

- 3 Persian cucumbers or one large English seedless cucumber, thinly sliced

- 4 radishes, thinly sliced

- 1 small roast chicken, still warm (recipe below)

Boil. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and add a spoonful of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, around 20 minutes. Check for done-ness with the tip of a sharp knife. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the cooking water and set them aside to cool. Keep the cooking water at a boil for the haricots (see below). When cool enough to handle, break the potatoes in half and set them aside.

Blanche. Add the green beans and boil until they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain them and transfer to a bowl to cool.

Put it all together. Arrange the greens on a large platter and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle the greens with one-third of the dressing. Toss the potatoes and green beans with another third of the dressing and lay them on top of the dressed greens. Tear all of the meat and skin from the chicken in largish pieces and scatter over the vegetables. Drizzle the whole thing with the remaining dressing, scatter the cucumbers and radishes over the top, and serve immediately.

***

Poulet rôti (roasted chicken)

Adapted from Jody Williams’ Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. This is the simplest way I have ever made a chicken and the last three sentences of the recipe capture the essence of the process: “No need to truss, baste, anything. Just season and cook. End of story.” Just make sure to leave enough time for the salt and seasoning to really sink into your chicken – I rubbed my chicken down on Thursday evening and let it sit in the fridge for about 16 hours before bringing it to room temperature for an hour and then roasting. 

- 1 T herbes de Provence

- 1 T coarse salt

- 1 3- to 4-lb chicken, patted dry with paper towels

Pound. With a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, coarsely grind the herbs de Provence and salt.

Season. Evenly season the chicken with the mixture, inside and out, really massaging it into all the crevices. Let the chicken sit for at least one our at room temperature or in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Roast. If you have refrigerated your chicken, take it out and let it sit, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place the room temperature chicken in a skillet or a roasting dish and set it in the oven. Roast until the thigh registers 165ºF on a meat thermometer, about 1 hour and 15 inures. Let the chicken rest at least 10 minutes before carving (ripping) and eating it.

***

Buvette mustard vinaigrette

Mustard vinaigrette

From Jody Williams’ Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. OK, so this vinaigrette makes everything taste French. And by French, I mean good. And by good, I mean dip a piece of chicken in it and lick your fingers good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

- 2 large shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

- 1 t fresh thyme, finely chopped

- 1 small garlic clove, finely grated on a Microplane grater

- 3 T sherry vinegar

- 1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil

- 1 T water

- 2 T smooth Dijon or whole-grain mustard

- pinch sugar

- 1/2 t coarse salt

- a few grinds freshly ground pepper

Mix. Shake all the ingredients in a jar until they’re well combined. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

 

 

 

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