Fattoush salad

Fills the belly: Fattoush is a popular Lebanese salad of pita bread and greens that accompanies many meals in the Arab world. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Want to reduce calories before the summer bathing suit season but still enjoy foods that satisfy hunger and please your taste buds?

Eat your salad first, as the main dish, filling up on the lower-calorie, healthier-for-you vegetables before you're tempted to eat those less-desirable dishes containing more fat and less fiber. But not any salad: fattoush.

Fattoush is a popular Lebanese salad of pita bread and greens that accompanies many meals in the Arab world. The fattat, or flatbread base, fills the belly as you chow down on the flavor-filled salad of various vegetables.

The trick is adding zatar, a Middle Eastern herb mixture, found at Middle-East grocery stores, that includes thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Some versions incorporate other spices, depending upon the country of origin.

You'll probably have a lot more zatar left than you used in this recipe. Consider that a bonus. Zatar contributes zest when added to other salads, most vegetables and rice. For a snack that is difficult to stop munching, combine zatar with olive oil into a paste and spread it on toasted pita.


Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Servings: 4


2 cups whole wheat pita bread torn in bite-size pieces, about four 6-inch pita

1 head romaine lettuce, sliced across in 1-inch ribbons

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 each, chopped: small cucumber, red bell pepper

½ cup each, fresh, chopped: parsley, mint

1 bunch green onions, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon zatar

2 tablespoons each: olive oil, lemon juice

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon each: dry mustard, sea salt

1 clove garlic, pressed or minced

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place pieces of pita on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until edges are crisp, about 6 minutes. Alternatively, toast whole pitas in the toaster; tear into bite-size pieces.

2. Place the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, parsley, mint and green onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the zatar; toss.

3. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, mustard, salt and garlic together. Pour over the salad; toss until evenly distributed. Serve garnished with pita pieces.

Nutrition information:

Per serving: 188 calories, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 27 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 811 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.

Kay Stepkin is a vegetarian cooking instructor and former owner of a vegetarian restaurant/whole-grain bakery. Email her at foods@tribune.com.