I’ve only just discovered fatteh – a Levantine dish of crumbled, toasted pita covered in warm chickpeas and cool, tangy yogurt sauce – but I’m in love. It’s easy to prepare, often vegetarian, makes good use of ingredients I typically have on hand, and is a satisfying snack, starter, or breakfast. I came across it while researching an upcoming article for TreeFree Food on leftovers around the world and found fatteh as a perfect use for stale, leftover pita. The word fatteh is Arabic for “crushed” or “crumbs”, and is the name for all manner of riffs on a crumbled, toasted pita casserole. If you’ve ever had fattoush salad with toasted pita on top, I believe it comes from the same root.
Fatteh is popular, in slightly different iterations, in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. Living in Israel I mention Israel and Middle Eastern food often, but a while back I got an email from Summer of the wonderful food blog Mimi Cooks. As a woman of Palestinian origin she asked in a kind and thoughtful way if I ever post about Palestinian food, or even have any knowledge of it. “Not to be political at all,” she wrote, “but I’m only wondering because they [Palestinians] exist in the country and I’m sure Israeli food has been influenced by Palestinian food throughout history.”
It was an email that made me stop in my tracks, think, and smile. Summer had called me out on a major shortcoming of my blog, and one that I wanted to remedy. The truth is that everything here (seriously, everything) is political and for better or worse, I try to keep my head down. But I’m passionate about the foods of the region and want to share them with my readers. Many of the most iconic Israeli dishes – falafel, shawarma, hummus, etc – are culinary transplants from the surrounding countries, which is completely natural. While each place has a distinct cuisine, history and proximity have led to lots of overlap in recipes.
In a follow-up email Summer wrote, “I just feel that Middle eastern food in general and Palestinian food especially, is not represented enough in the food and cooking industry and only the tip of the iceberg is known.” It’s so true! So, here is my first attempt to remedy that. I offer fatteh and hope to bring you many more Palestinian and Levantine dishes in the near future. While the recipe here is vegetarian, Summer says that chicken fatteh with rice (see her recipe here) is the national dish of Gaza. And in general all manner of fatteh are served during the month of Ramadan (see also Summer’s chickpea fatteh recipe with video here).
- 3 pitas, cut into wedges
- 1Â¾ cups (275 g) chickpeas (canned or cooked), drained and rinsed
- 1 cup (225 g) plain yogurt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Â½ teaspoon cumin
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini paste
- ⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted
- Chopped parsley or cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 175C/350F.
- Put the pita wedges on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside. (Alternately, Palestinian recipes often call for frying the pita on the stovetop.)
- Put the chickpeas in a small pot along with 100 ml (Â½ cup) water and simmer over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until the water has mostly absorbed and the chickpeas are heated through. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, put the yogurt, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, tahini paste, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Whisk in a little water at a time if the mixture is too thick, until a desired consistency is reached.
- Break up the toasted pita wedges a bit and arrange them in an even layer on the bottom of a deep serving platter, bowl, or casserole dish. Top with the warm chickpeas, then the yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley or cilantro and serve with additional pita or pita chips.
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