Sunday, September 6, 2009
EAT FATTOUSH FOR A SMALLER DERRIERE
Okay, I'll admit that's a cheesy title, but I just couldn't resist. When you're hungry and your stomach is already filled with air, it has no place to go except your head. Having succeeded in completing my first week back OP (on program--specifically, Weight Watchers) with a payoff of minus 4.4 pounds at the scale, I was not about to backslide with a BBQ to mark summer's end. Instead of the requisite salads laden with mayonnaise nestled next to the shiny, sweet bacon-strewn baked beans and the tangy, smoked sweetness of pulled pork fighting for space next to grill-marked hot dogs and hamburgers, I opted for a Middle Eastern-inspired meal with an emphasis on freshness, an abundance of produce, and figure-friendly protein.
Thanks to Cook the Books, an online foodie book club that combines two of my passions, cooking and reading, I was introduced to a wonderful book, The Language of Baklava M by Diana Abu-Jabar. My copy is dog-earred and well used. The author's dad, the inimitable Bud, has opened my eyes (and mouth) to new flavors. Bud's incredible grilled chicken makes its way onto my menu planner once or twice each month. It was a given that this grilled chicken would be the star of our Labor Day celebration.
Instead of fat-laden chips and dip, I made hummus (again using Bud's recipe) and served it with carrot sticks, pita, and a selection of whole wheat crackers. I usually make Bud's rice with pine nuts and cinnamon to accompany the grilled chicken, but, hey, it IS a holiday, so I relented and made some roasted red potatoes with garlic, rosemary, and olive oil.
Since we eat a salad nearly every night, I wanted a special salad with a Middle Eastern flair and turned to Bud's recipe for Fattoush. First off, I just love the name. It rolls deliciously off your tongue and saying it I become 5 years old, trying out a naughty word.
If you've ever eaten panzanella, an Italian bread and tomato salad, you know how delicious those simple ingredients can be, particularly after the dressing soaks into them. Fattoush, which includes tomatoes, scallions, red pepper, romaine, cucumbers, herbs, and pita chips, has a more complex flavor, but is still a simple salad at heart. But it is visually stunning. I generally don't save leftover salad, but this is one that improves after sitting in the fridge overnight. With some sliced leftover chicken, it was a delightful lunch the next day.
You don't have to wait until you're making a whole Middle Eastern meal to enjoy fattoush. I'm sure it would be just as tasty with a hamburger or grilled salmon. You can get in your daily dose of veggies and it's low in calories. The dressing is made from heart-healthy olive oil with a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper. A large salad--enough for 4-6--uses just 1 1/2 loaves of pita.
And then there's the sound of it! Fa-tooosh! Fa-tooosh! Sorry, I just can't help myself.