Almost two years ago I had a salad at a Lebanese restaurant in Accra, Ghana (at two different restaurants actually) that I’ve remembered to this day. And all this time I’ve wanted to make it myself. I finally did last night.

The salad is simple, but it’s nothing I’ve ever seen or eaten in the US (though I’m sure it must exist). It consists of diced cucumber and tomato, romaine lettuce, onions, and pita chips, all dressed heavily with a lemon vinaigrette. Kalamata olives and feta cheese would not be out of place here.

One detail I remember from first having the salad was a visible brown spice in the dressing. At the time I thought it was cinnamon. After searching Google for fattoush, I discovered it was most likely a spice called sumac, a reddish powder ground from the dried berries of the sumac tree—which happens to be closely related to poison-oak, of which I am very allergic. Live dangerously, right? At Whole Foods I found it in a small packet on a display of unusual herbs and spices. For future reference: What to do with sumac.

Here’s how it turned out:
Fattoush salad

And here’s the recipe:

Mix together:

  • 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 cups romaine hearts, cut or torn bite-size
  • half a red or white onion, sliced and quartered
  • freshly chopped mint, approx 20 leaves
  • 1 cup pita chips
  • optional: kalamata olives, 1/4 cup chopped parsley/cilantro, feta cheese

For the vinaigrette, whisk together:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

And combine. Bon appetit!

· Food