Over the past year, we’ve faced a lot of trials and tribulations. Chief among them has been our inability to see and connect with loved ones. Not being able to see friends and family has made me realize just how much my memories and experiences with them revolve around food. Whether it’s dinner out, a potluck with friends or my mom’s homecooked meals, so many ways we connect with one another are food related.
When the pandemic first hit and we were forced to stay home, I missed those food experiences connecting me to my loved ones. I wasn’t the only one—people all over the world were trying to find ways to be with their loved ones through food, cooking over FaceTime or Zoom, hosting virtual holiday parties and socially distanced family meals, and sharing food on social media (@deema_eats!)
As this pandemic continues, I find myself calling my mother repeatedly, asking for recipes of the meals I grew up eating and now suddenly crave. Going through these recipes together keeps us connected. When I make the meal and am enjoying it at home with my husband, it feels *almost* like I’m back at her house tucking into one of her glorious meals. Making and eating the recipes my mom has perfected over the years feels incredibly personal and close. It’s not exactly the same, but how could it be? It will tie us over for now and make our reunion that much more meaningful.
One of the recipes I found myself going back to time and again is my mom’s Fattoush salad. For those of you who haven’t tried it, Fattoush is a classic Middle Eastern salad typically recognized for its crispy pita chips. But not all Fattoush is created equally my friends. Everyone says their mom’s recipe is the best, but my mom’s recipe really IS THE BEST. The salad itself is simple and customizable—it’s the pomegranate-jalapeno dressing that holds all the magic.
1 pita (white or whole wheat—both work well)
1 head of lettuce (I typically use romaine)
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cucumber cut into 1/2 moons
1/8 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
1 lemon, squeezed
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (this is non-negotiable! no substitutions)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
Dried mint & sumac (optional but highly encouraged)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Celsius. Brush pita with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10–13 minutes until golden brown.
2. Cut up salad ingredients and place in a large bowl. Add or remove ingredients as you like. Lightly season with salt and pepper, dried mint and sumac.
3. With a mortar and pestle, pound diced jalapeno with a bit of salt until some of the juices are released (remove seeds first if you don’t like heat). Leave a few discernible chunks. Squeeze lemon into the mixture. Add pomegranate molasses and olive oil and stir together. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Take your now-cooled pita and break it into small pieces with your hands. There’s no magic to this step—keep them as big or as small as you like, but don’t turn to dust. Place pita chips in your salad bowl, add dressing and toss well to mix.
Now eat this delicious salad right away! If you’re making it in advance, prepare all the steps but don’t add the dressing until just before eating. And friends—I’ll thank my mom on your behalf.