The best thing about the end of summer is the tomatoes. (The worst thing is that summer is ending, but I am not willing to go there yet.)
Back to tomatoes, and fattoush. Fattoush is a Lebanese salad made with a variety of raw vegetables and pita bread. Some believe fattoush must contain lettuce; others that the pita must be crisp. Many experts say neither of those is true, and I am with them.
This fattoush is a bit like the Italian bread salad panzanella, in that the bread is toasted or stale, but softened by the dressing and the juices of the vegetables. The resulting salty-acidic-sweet flavor and wonderful softened crispness of the pitas are like the supporting actor in a play who the critics keep talking about. The pita isn’t supposed to be the focus– certainly not when ripe, juicy summer tomatoes are around– but we can’t stop poking our fork around our dish, hoping to uncover yet another piece.
The version here has feta, which is not traditional, but adds contrasting nuggets of salty brine. And because our garden is so generously endowed with basil this summer, I’ve used that in place of the usual parsley. Suit yourself when it comes to which fresh herbs you use, adding shredded lettuce (many do), feta (or not), and so forth. But I will say that this fattoush, which I ate nearly constantly for two days, is the one I’ll stick with. Speaking of which, it is worth noting that the flavors really bloom the next day, though it won’t look as pretty. If you want to make it in advance , you can certainly do so– but add half the fresh herbs in the half hour before you serve it to brighten both their flavor and the colors.