Certina Romel Shares Best Ever Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad (vegan)

Are you one of those people out there, who believes in having a raw leafy salad atleast once a day in order to keep your health conscious mind sane?

Then, this refreshing salad is for you. It’s not only loaded with all the leafy goodness but also has added crunchiness from its Arabic seasoned pita crisps. It’s a very easy to make salad with readily available ingredients in your pantry.

What makes this recipe special?

. Use of a mix of greens (unlike in traditional fattoush salad) both Romaine & iceberg lettuce along with baby arugula leaves & parsley – more greens, more iron!

. An awesome vinaigrette dressing that’s pretty easy to make at the last moment- sure is a saver!

. Use of homemade whole wheat pita bread for making crisps (given after the salad recipe)

– Does it get more better guys?!

How I developed this recipe?

Certina Jose Shares Best Ever Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad (vegan)After moving to Dubai I got to try many dishes from their vast & vibrant cuisine. Fattoush salad is a very popular side & appetiser here in the Middle East and it’s accompanied with regular Arabic lamb/meat grills to their popular rice dishes.

You guys would be surprised to know that fattoush salad and tabbouleh (Arabic chopped parsley salad) are as famous as hummus here!

Me, being a person who always loves to recreate new dishes and being a food critic (I know that these 2 traits together can be tragic at times! #jk), always wanted to make the best ever version of this amazing salad.

And yeah, one of the best fattoush salad I had was from Restaurant Leila, which serves traditional Lebanese food here in Dubai. What made their fattoush salad distinct was their perfectly tangy & subtly sweet dressing, which I’ve almost perfectly recreated in my recipe after many trials.

The most important element that I had contributed to the traditional recipe is definitely the whole wheat pita crisps. I have come up with the easiest ever pitas, which are brown unlike traditional white flour pitas arabs use in their authentic recipe-I’m not being a racist here!

You know what’s the best part? This pita crisps can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks and used in your salad whenever you get hold of fresh greens. And this bonus recipes can be used on its own for hot ,perfectly pocketed brown wholesome pitas that can be stuffed & sandwiched with your favourite fillings (try falafels, tahini & greens -for vegans & grilled lamb/chicken, garlicky mayo or yogurt & greens-for meat lovers).

Ok guys, so now, before being over-excited about my amazing stovetop pita recipe & spilling out my to-go recipes with you (coz these can be made a whole new topic later),let’s get started.

What you’ll need-

For pita crisps-

2 whole wheat pita breads (recipe below)- cut into you can use store bought if you are lazy/didn’t get time to make your own

All-spice powder- 1/2 tsp

Paprika/ red chilli powder- 1/2 to 1 tsp (depends on how spicy you want your crisps to be)

Salt to taste

Sunflower/canola oil (basically, any flavourless frying oil)

Salad veggies-

leaf mix- 1 cup baby arugula leaves, 2 cups roughly chopped iceberg lettuce, 2 cups roughly chopped romaine lettuce, 2 tbsps finely chopped parsley

Baby tomatoes- 1 cup, cut cross-sectionally into 2

Baby radish (outer pink-inner white)- 1/2 cup, thinly sliced cross-sectionally to lovely circles

Small English cucumbers- 1 cup, cut length wise into to 2 & then cross-sectional into a number of bite sized pieces (semi-circular)

White onions-1/2 a big or 1 whole medium sized, cut sliced into thick juliennes

For dressing-

Certina Jose Shares Best Ever Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad (vegan)Garlic- 2 cloves, very finely minced (don’t used store bought minced garlic)—optional

Balsamic vinegar- 1 tbsp

Pomegranate molasses – 1/2 to 1 tbsp

Sumac powder (an Arabic condiment made from dried red-colored berries )- 1 tsp

All spice powder- 1/4 tsp

Cinnamon powder- 1/4 tsp

Juices from 1/2 a lemom

Salt to taste

Extra virgin olive oil -1 tbsp

How to prepare?

Cut you pita breads diagonally into 6 triangular pieces and fry them in hot oil (make sure your oil taken in a deep vessel is hot enough to ensure crispness) till wonderfully brown & crisp .

Drain your chips into a plate lined with kitchen towel to get rid of excess oil dripping .

Season you chips with all-spice powder, paprika powder & salt

Ps: Try a bit of pita crisps but be careful not to finish them before you make your salad( they are that yum)!

Next, in a big salad bowl (preferably glass) layer up the veggies: (bottom)onions-cucumbers-tomatoes-radishes-leafy greens(top)

Prepare the vinaigrette by combining all its components in a small bowl & mix well.

Pour the dressing over the layered up veggies into the the salad bowl & give a rough stir

Lightly crush the triangular pita crisps into smaller parts and lay them over the dressed greens .

Dig in & enjoy!

Serving suggestions-

Certina Jose Shares Best Ever Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad (vegan)Lighlty smear a tablespoon of pure extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle with sumac powder after preparing the salad.

Garnish with 2-3 moon-sliced lemon pieces & a few pomegranate seeds.

Whole wheat pita bread-

(8 Pitas)

. 2 cups whole wheat flour

. 1 cup lukewarm water

. 1/2 tbsp (not heaped)Active dried yeast

. 1/2 tbsp sugar

. Salt to taste

Sieve atta with salt.

Dissolve sugar in water. Sprinkle and mix in yeast to it. Cling wrap it let the yeast bloom for about 10 mins in MW oven.

Mix in oil with whole wheat flour very well.

Make the dough by mixing in yeast mixture with atta mix.

Knead till the dough is not sticky. Sprinkle little flour on counter if necessary. Roll into a big single ball and coat with less than 1/2 tsp olive oil.

Clinwrap the dough and keep for proofing in the MW for 1 hour to 1.5 hrs.

Punch down the dough after it doubles in size. Fold upto texturise and cut into 8 equal parts. Roll into lemon sized balls & dust each of these balls will flour before flattening using a rolling pin.

Flatten into circles (ps: make sure these aren’t as thin as tortillas or rotis, as they need to be thick enough to puff up properly).

Flip on to a uniformly heated tawa (better use a flat & thick cast iron cookware) placed over stovetop flame & flip every 10-20 seconds till they puff up in bubbles and starts lightly browning.

Soon flip onto direct flame (stovetop flame with circumference of that of the pita) and see the pitas beautiful ballooning.

Your pitas with steaming pockets are ready!

Notes & tips-

Always use freshly cut greens for raw salads.

Whole wheat pita crisps can be substituted with store bought gluten free pita chips, for people allergic to gluten.

About Certina Romel:

“A food enthusiast is what I would love to describe myself as,” says this young chef of Indian origin, who has joined a professional diploma program in cookery & patisserie recently. “The above recipe is a simple but a lovely one. I had prepared this a few days ago.”

Recalling taste for cooking, Certina says, “I still remember  5-year-old me faking an obedient kid around my mom in the kitchen wanting her to let me roll out gol-gol chapatis (Indian whole-wheat flatbread/roti that’s perfectly round & soft). Later as a teen I always used to wait to reach home from school as I had a daily cooking session every evening when I was allowed to own the kitchen for 1 solid hour -after a lot of nagging-which was worth it!- when I could cook a dish on my own . That’s the point of my life I realised i was fond of coming up with new dishes, the food I love and I always wanted my dad to be my food critic of whatever I made.”

After many years of several beautiful events in her life-completing high school, junior college, going to Georgia for medical studies, getting married-  Certina never let go of her passion for cooking.

Little did she know that she would find her utopia in an epicurean world through her ongoing journey to become a professional chef from a humble home cook. “So yeah, I’m currently doing a professional diploma program in Cookery & Patisserie at International Centre for Culinary Arts(ICCA) , Dubai & I’m proud to be at one of 10 best culinary schools of the whole world.”

Sharing her own experiences in cooking, Certina says, “It has always made my day when smiles lit up on the faces of people who indulge in food I cook. Believe me peeps, if a spoonful of your food could make a person’s worst day in life to a happy one, that’s the best thing you could ever do!”

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