Fattoush-Toasted Pita Bread Salad with Falafel Balls
Bread salads are not only filling but tasty and economical. I always seem to have pita bread around, so this salad is a great way to use up day-old whole wheat pitas. This is a strictly summer and fall salad because of its need for perfectly ripe fresh tomatoes, unless you luck out and find some perfect hothouse Romas. Don’t skip the mint; it makes it special. This was originally introduced to me by chef and food writer Joyce Goldstein, whose comment on this salad is: “This may well become your favorite summer salad.” I love it with falafel balls on top, made from easily available falafel mix (making them from scratch is tricky since they fall apart so easy), which is my touch.
Cooking Method: Stovetop
Cook Time: About 15 minutes
2 cups commercial falafel mix, prepared according to package directions
Organic canola oil or vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup your favorite fruity olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 whole rounds pita bread, white or whole wheat
4 to 6 ripe tomatoes, diced to make about 2 cups
2 medium cucumbers, or 1 long hot house cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
4 green onions, finely chopped both white and some of the green
3 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 heads romaine lettuce, very coarsely chopped
Prepare the falafel mix and let stand 15 minutes while you prepare the salad. Pour the oil into a deep heavy skillet to the depth of 1/2-inch. Heat over medium-high heat and form the falafel balls with your hands, about 3 tablespoons each to make a 2-inch ball. Set a plate covered with a double layer of paper towel next to the stove. Flatten the balls to a thickness of 1-inch; you will have 16 balls. Place the balls in the hot oil and cook 3 minutes per side, 6 minutes total, until browned and crisp. Cook in a single layer, in batches, for they won’t cook properly if crowded. Cut one in half to make sure it is cooked all the way through. Transfer the cooked falafel balls to the plate to drain and continue until all the balls are cooked. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste and set aside. Cut the pitas in half and toast in a toaster until crisp. Tear into 2-inch pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, green onion, parsley, and mint; add some dressing to coat and toss to combine. In another bowl, place the romaine and drizzle with remaining dressing. Divide into 4 portions and place on a large dinner plate. Mound the pita, 4 falafel balls, and vegetables atop the romaine. Grind some pepper over the top, maybe sprinkle with some salt, and dive in.