Lessons in fattoush

I love the fattoush salad served in Mediterranean restaurants, but have never been able to perfect the combination of ingredients to get the right flavor at home. My dad recommended this recipe to me and sent me home with the ingredients I was missing. He really wanted me to try it.

I tried it that night, and followed the recipe pretty much exactly, except I added Feta cheese (the recipe didn’t call for cheese of any kind). When I was putting in the mint, Jan looked over my shoulder and said, “that’s a lot of mint,” to which I repied, “It’s in the recipe!”

Well, when it was time to eat the salad, he was right. The salad probably would have been much better with less mint, or, without any of it, which I think I’ll probably do next time.

The dressing, however, was amazing, and I had never used Sumac before (Dad sent me home with a little bag of it). I’m now convinced it must be the secret ingredient to get the authentic taste I was missing in earlier attempts.

Here’s the recipe for the dressing:

Sumac salad dressing

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Sumac

1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

Use a garlic press or finely chop the garlic, then mash with the salt in a bowl with the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice, Sumac, and olive oil and whisk together. Store until ready to serve.

Behold, the seven hour book club

I hosted this month’s book club at my house, and we had two new women joining us, so I was excited and determined to make sure everyone had a good time. Our book selection was Orangette author Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life,” and the plan was to make recipes from the book and/or blog.

We had an appetizer of an assortment of cheeses, breads, crackers, and fruits. For dinner, Laura made the Chana Masala, Nicea made the roasted tomatoes, and I made Burg’s potato salad. It was a challenge for me to step outside my tried and true potato salad recipe and make one with ranch dressing, dill, and caraway seeds, but I think it came out well, and there wasn’t any leftover–a  good sign.

The unanimous hit was the bread salad with cherries, arugula, and goat cheese. Beth used fresh cherries from the farmer’s market to add sweetness to the salad, and the toasted bread mopped up the juices from the cherries, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil with perfection.

Oh, and Beth showed me how to use the “food” setting on my camera, and we practiced getting more delicious food shots with about 15 different pictures of the dessert (winning entry here). Rachel made Hoosier pie: a pecan pie with bourbon and chocolate chips. It was rich and delicious, and I had to force myself to stop eating it.

It was 1 a.m. before we knew it. I wasn’t sure if everyone stayed later than usual because of all the wine we drank and their need to sober up, or perhaps that they were having such a good time they didn’t want the evening to end. Hopefully it was a little bit of both.