Beans build the salad; bread makes it shine


On my annual list of summer salads, there's always fattoush. Like panzanella, its Italian cousin, fattoush makes use of leftover bread and combines it with fresh produce. This Middle Eastern dish often employs pomegranate molasses and tart sumac in its dressing, but variations abound.

I may like it even better than panzanella, and not just because it represents the cuisine of my people (or close to it, anyway). It's because of the bread: not cubes of sourdough or the like, but pieces of pita, which I love here for their firm texture.

As with any bread salad, fattoush changes as it sits. If you eat it immediately after it's tossed, that pita - which I like to char in a grill pan before tearing into pieces - will still be crisp, and to my mind, this is not when the salad is at its best. After 10 minutes, once the dressing starts to soak into the pita? That's when I love it - the pita has contrasting textures, a little crunchy still in spots but starting to soften here and there - and all the other flavors have started to marry. That stage lasts for a good hour or so. Soon thereafter, the pita pieces start getting soft through and through: not a bad thing, just different.

Traditional Lebanese versions of the dish are typically based on such simple vegetables as tomatoes, lettuce, onion and radish. But I couldn't resist an iteration I found in the new "Martha Stewart's Vegetables" (Clarkson Potter, 2016), a compendium of produce-centric (but not always vegetarian) recipes that includes invaluable tips on storage, selection, cooking, flavor pairings and more. Martha's fattoush combines crunchy fresh green beans with creamy shell beans, along with chopped sweet onion, cucumber, feta, mint and parsley.

The dressing isn't traditional, either: It's a simple, vibrant lemon-garlic concoction. But somehow, the sum total feels perfectly in sync with the salad's guiding principles: bread, crunch, tartness and summer.

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Green Bean, Shell Bean and Sweet Onion Fattoush

4 to 6 servings

Here, the two types of beans are cooked in the same pot, one after the other: Make sure to cook the green beans first, as the shell beans release a lot of starch into the cooking water.

MAKE AHEAD: The fattoush needs to sit for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour before it's served. You'll have a little more vinaigrette than you need for this salad, but it's wonderfully versatile and can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Adapted from "Martha Stewart's Vegetables: Inspired Recipes and Tips for Choosing, Cooking, and Enjoying the Freshest Seasonal Flavors," by the editors of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson Potter, 2016).

Ingredients

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest and 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

8 ounces haricots verts, trimmed

About 8 ounces (3/4 cup) shelled fresh shell beans, such as limas (may substitute frozen)

Three 6-inch pita breads

1/2 large Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

1 English (seedless) cucumber, quartered and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup torn fresh mint, plus more for garnish

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Steps

Whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream, until emulsified. The yield is 3/4 cup.

Fill a mixing bowl with lots of ice and cold water. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Add the haricots verts to the pot; cook just until crisp-tender and bright green, about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the beans to the ice-water bath; let cool, then remove and pat dry. Place in a large bowl. Keep the salted water boiling.

Add the shell beans to the pot; cook just until tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to the same ice-water bath, adding ice as needed; let cool, then drain in a colander and pat dry. Combine with the haricots verts.

Heat a grill (or grill pan) to medium. Split each pita in half. Brush both sides of the pita halves with oil; season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill the pita breads, turning once, until golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Let cool, then tear into 1-inch pieces.

Add the onion, cucumber, feta, 1/2 cup of the mint, all the parsley and the grilled pita pieces to the beans; drizzle with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and toss well to combine. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, as needed, then garnish with the remaining mint.

Let stand for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour. Toss just before serving.

Nutrition: Per serving (using 1/2 cup vinaigrette): 320 calories, 9 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar


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