For the past three weeks, I have been working on a very large freelance project: copy-editing and Americanizing a British cookbook for publication in the U.S. It is unlike and much longer than other project I’ve worked on (thanks to my former life as a magazine editor), and it’s been both exciting and grueling. Ironically, since I began working on it, I haven’t cooked a damn thing. Instead, I’ve spent most of my time hunched over a desk, scribbling out computations and proofreading symbols, and the time not spent working has been spent wailing about how busy I am. My balls-to-the-wall approach to this task has left no time for kitchen business.
So, after handing in the first half of the assignment on Monday, I pulled out my knives, cracked open my cooking bible, and set to work turning the uber-stale whole wheat pitas festering on my kitchen counter into a big, refreshing dinner. Though I looked to Mark Bittman’s recipe, I confess that I didn’t measure a single ingredient. After days and days of being so structured with my time, so focused on a single task and exectuting it as perfectly as possible, I was sick of trying to be perfect. I threw those pitas in the oven to toast at a temperature we will never know and for a duration equally mysterious; meanwhile, I reached for vegetables, a bunch of parsley, a fragrant lemon. It’s like I was on autopilot–mostly checked-out from my brain, but aware enough that I knew how good it felt not to be following directions or adhering to a schedule.
Oh, and it tasted really, really good.
Fattoush (Lebanese bread salad)
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Serves 2 to 3
Note: all quantities are approximations and/or outright guesses.
2 whole wheat pitas
A big pile of minced fresh parsley that, to you, looks like it might be about 1/3 cup
1/2 small or medium red onion, diced finely
10-15 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, sliced into rounds and then cut into quarter-rounds
1/2 red bell pepper, cut about as small as the cucumber
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil (4-6 Tbsp. or to taste)
1. Throw pita into a 250-350*F oven and toast until lightly or heavily crunchy; lightly crunchy is nice, but heavily works, too.
2. Combine parsley, onion, tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper in a large bowl.
3. When pita is toasted to your liking, or when you remember it and pluck it from the oven, tear into bite-size pieces. (If it’s really crunchy, just break it up as best you can and break up any pointed edges.) Add to bowl.
4. Season everything with salt and pepper, drizzle lemon juice and oil on top, and toss to combine. Serve immediately or, if your bread came out extremely crunchy, let salad sit a while for bread to soak up some liquid and soften to a eater-friendly consistency before serving.