A couple weeks ago, one of our friends brought over a huge box full of loaves of pumpernickel and sourdough saved from the Whole Foods dumpster. It was a mess of bread. Much of it got eaten and enjoyed, much of it was given away (one of the many joys of dumpstering is that there is always food to share), yet after a week there were still a couple stray loaves lingering the bottom of the box. Being a chronic anti-waster, I was faced with a challenge: what to do with these few leftover boules?
Luckily, Laurelin flew to the rescue and used the two leftover pumpernickels to make some killer bread pudding, a serious treat. The dark, crusty bread totally made it — it held up beautifully when baked, becoming moist yet retaining its texture, and with some dried sour cherries and walnuts on top it was a thing to behold. Two batches later, our house was an exceptionally happy place.
Which left me with one sole, dried out sourdough. Enter tastespotting, and the archives I keep of the recipes that most catch my eye. I remember seeing a delicious-looking recipe for Fattoush, an Arabian (or more specifically, Levantine) salad that involves mixing shards of crisped pita with large pieces of whatever vegetables are in season. It sounded hearty, textural, and extremely satisfying.
I do love Middle Eastern cuisine (anything from North Africa to the Caspian Sea, really) and this sounded like the perfect way to use up my dry bread, along with whatever veggies from the dumpster were kicking around in the fridge. I started by cutting up that behemoth of a loaf (I felt more like a butcher than a baker because the bread was so hard) into crouton-sized cubes, coating them generously with olive oil, sea salt, herbes de provence, and cumin, and toasting them in the oven until they were golden brown and crispy around the edges, and a little softer in the middle from the oil. I also roasted some broccoli, cauliflower, and red onion with a similar blend, until the brassicas were just getting crispy and the onions were soft and sweet. While those guys were roasting up, I sliced some red bell pepper and spooned out an avocado into a big bowl – I wanted to have an interplay of raw and roasted veggies to go with the toasty croutons.
But alas, not all of the veg were destined to make it into the final product…
Chloé was on her way out the door, so it was good she could at least grab some of it, even though it wasn’t done yet. Plus it was pretty adorable as she tried a little bit from each pan.
After everything came out of the oven, I just mixed it all together in the bowl, incorporating all the flavours and letting the different veggies rub into the bread. I tossed it all with some pepitas and presto! Fast, delicious, cheap, interesting dinner.
Needless to say, I went crazy over the mix of different flavours and textures. Cause this salad is definitely all about texture — the crispy yet slightly chewy croutons, the soft yet toothsome roasted veggies, the crunch of the raw bell pepper, the creamy avocado binding everything together, and the faint nuttiness and aroma of toasted pumpkin seed all came together into a spectacle of oral haptics that was nothing short of exhibitionist, but still rustic enough to be lovable.
Not only was I supremely satisfied throughout rehearsal, but I knew I had at least one foolproof plan of attack should I ever find myself with another stale loaf of bread hanging around the kitchen.