Fattouch (a salad)
Fatteh (chickpeas with sesame paste)
These are prerequisites for the Iftar of any and all families. Of course there will always be a main entrée or more in addition to the threesome above and they are always welcomed extras.
Shorba (soup): Any kind of soup will do really. We especially like the angel hair (thin spaghetti) soup with tomato sauce and meat balls. The preparation is straight forward. The ground beef is shaped like small balls and fried in butter until golden brown. Tomato sauce, water and broth are brought to a boil and then the meat added. Salt, pepper and spices are used as per preference. Once the mélange is boiling, heat is reduced to a minimum, the short thin spaghetti is added and the pot covered over low heat for an hour or so. Stirring occasionally will insure that all the ingredients are getting well mixed. Just when the cannon is fired signaling sunset and the Muezzin chants Allah Akbar (we’ll talk about the cannon and the Muezzin next time) the hot soup is brought to the table. After a refreshingly misty glass of water, drunk straight up, the soup is the first thing to lubricate the esophagus and dilate it to make it ready to receive more goods.
Fattouch: is a salad well known in the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine). There might be some local variations in this culinary masterpiece, but this is how we do it in Tartous. I’m going to help you prepare a plate of Fattouch for four or five people. Fattouch is a mixture of parsley, portulaca (any green stuff if you can’t find it can serve as an alternative= lettuce for instance), fresh green mint, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cucumbers, radish, bread crumbs, grenadine molasses, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, Sumac (optional if you can’t find it) and finally salt & pepper.
Parsley (1 handful), portulaca (2 handfuls) and fresh green mint (1 handful) are thoroughly washed, picked (the seam removed) and soaked in salt and water during the preparation of the other ingredients.
Two tomatoes are cut in chunks the size of (see picture).
Two Cucumbers are sliced about 1/4” thick.
Radishes (1 handful) are peeled in a spiral fashion so that parts of them become white and others red (this is simply more appealing to the eye). Cut them in smaller pieces (see picture).
Pita bread crumbs are prepared in one of two ways (either fried in oil or for the more health conscious simply dry heated in the oven until light golden brown. (1 pita bread 8” diameter cut in small stamp size chunks).
One medium-sized onion, thinly sliced (see picture).
Two cloves of garlic, crushed soft.
Place the bread crumbs in the salad bowl you’re going to present on the table. In a separate bowl, mix two tablespoons of grenadine molasses (sold in most delicatessen shops in the west) with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of two medium-sized lemons, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and garlic.
Keep all the vegetables unmixed and separate until ready to serve. Remove the portulaca, parsley and fresh green mint from the salted water and then mix them along with all the veggies, place them on top of the bread and mix them well while adding the grenadine molasses/olive oil/lemon juice/vinegar/garlic dressing (the bread is to be mixed with the other ingredients). Add sumac, salt and pepper as per taste. For those who had never tried Fattouch before, give it a try and you’ll never eat salad any other way afterward.
Fatteh: is a dish of soft-boiled chickpeas, bread crumbs and a dressing made of sesame paste (Tehiné), plain salted yogurt, lemon juice and garlic all topped off with delicious melted butter with fried pine nuts. Some parsley and grenadine are sprayed for the aesthetic effect (optional).
To be completely honest, in Tartous we buy the cooked chickpeas and the dressing ready from the small popular (Fool & Hommos restaurants, see 1st picture above). If you live in the west, ready cooked chickpeas in cans are sold in many supermarkets. You would need to throw away the water in the can and boil them in fresh water and until very tender and soft. The required time depends on the pre-cooked condition they were in but they should real soft (ulmost mushy). The sesame paste (Tehiné) is also sold in specialty stores everywhere. 1/2 cup needs to be diluted with lemon juice (1 squeezed lemon) and some plain yogurt (2 full tablespoons) until it has the fluidity of paint (not thicker). Two cloves of crushed garlic are added to this dressing.
The crumbs of bread (same as in Fattouch) are placed at the bottom of the bowl. The hot chickpeas are spread evenly on top (1 12 oz can) and some, not all, of the hot water used for boiling is added. The sesame paste dressing is spread on top with the back of a spoon in a layer of roughly ½ “. Finally 1 tablespoon of hot and melted butter with some pine nuts is splashed on top with some parsley, red pepper and grenadine for decoration.
What I have just described above are the must ingredients of a Tartoussi Ramadan Iftar. Please note that these dishes are prepared out of Ramadan as well. They would, however, together meet every single day of the entire month.
If you’re fasting while reading this post, I hope I was able to tease your taste buds.
Iftar Hani (Bon Appétit).