by Paula Wolfert

Middle Eastern Bread and Purslane Salad


  • 1 small green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh spearmint leaves
  • 1 cup torn arugula leaves
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped stemmed purslane
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed in a mortar with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground sumac
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 large, brick-oven baked pitas, split, toasted, and broken into 1/2-inch pieces

Elizabeth Cecil

Paula's Fattoush. In 'The Forme of Cury', the earliest documented English cookbook published around 1390 by Richard II's cooks, purslane, or "purslarye" is the main ingredient in the salad recipe.

Here is a wonderful tasting salad, based on a selection of glossy monochromatic green herbs, chopped and seasoned, then blended with crumbled toasted pita and fresh tomatoes. The addition of two special ingredients makes this salad a fattoush rather than merely a Middle Eastern version of Italian panzanella: fleshy-textured purslane and lemony sumac. Red ground sumac, available at Middle Eastern groceries or by mail order(http://www.kalustyans.com), infuses the salad with a delightful, slightly sour pungency and aroma.

In a large salad bowl, combine the pepper, cucumber, scallions, parsley, mint, arugula, and purslane. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, oil, sumac, salt, and pepper. Toss with the ingredients in the salad bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Ten minutes before serving, add the tomatoes and pitas; toss well. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Serves 6 to 8.

Originally published in Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Harper Collins, 1994.