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These Middle Eastern Salad Recipes Make Tomatoes the Star

Ottolenghi alums Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer know a thing or two about summer produce.

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Summer's blistering heat pays its dividends in August when sweet, juicy tomatoes hit the market. For a few weeks each year, tomatoes are so good that it's almost criminal to use them in dishes where they are the supporting actor. Husband and wife duo Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer give tomatoes a starring role in dishes at their London restaurant Honey & Co. — and in their Israeli-inspired cookbook of the same name, out now.

Cooks outside of the U.K. might not be familiar with Honey & Co., but let's fix that now: For four years, Srulovich and Packer helped prepare the vegetable-forward dishes at Jerusalem authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's hit London restaurants. Srulovich was the head chef at Ottolenghi while Packer filled roles as both the head pastry chef at Ottolenghi and the executive chef at Nopi. The couple's cooking uses many of the same flavors that made Jerusalem such a hit — think: lots of fresh produce, herbs, and za'atar — but in simpler recipes like these two for tomato and za'atar fatoush, and tomato and pomegranate tabbouleh. They've amped up the flavors for these classic Middle Eastern salads, making them the perfect stage for August's finest tomatoes.

Tomato & Za'atar Fatoush

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main

1 pita cut in half to make two thin round pieces (not two thick half-moons!)
olive oil
1 head of Little Gem lettuce
1 1⁄2 cups of mixed tomatoes (the idea here is to use a few varieties)
1 cup/150grams feta
2 sprigs of fresh oregano, picked
2 1⁄2 teaspoons za'atar
2 heaped tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds

For the dressing

1 clove of garlic
2 generous tablespoons good olive oil (this salad is worth it)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (we use a Corinthian one)
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
a pinch of black pepper

Peel the garlic and place it on a chopping board, then press down on it with the side of a knife until it is crushed but stays in one piece. Mix it together with the other dressing ingredients and allow to infuse for at least an hour at room temperature. Remove the garlic just before mixing the dressing with the salad; it is only there to give a slight hint of flavor that works well with the tomatoes.

Brush the pita pieces with a little oil and toast them until they're lightly golden and crispy. You can grill them or use your toaster — just watch that they don't burn. Break into bite-sized shards, but make sure they're not too small.

Separate the lettuce into leaves and wash in cold water. Dry on a few sheets of paper towel or in a salad spinner. Cut the leaves into large strips.

Cut the tomatoes in two or three different ways (slices, wedges, chunks, dice) to give the salad some texture. The pieces should all be roughly bite-sized — not too small or they will become watery. Break the feta into chunks but try not to crumble it to a paste. All these preparations can be done up to an hour in advance.

When you are ready to serve, remove the garlic clove from the dressing. Take a large bowl, place the pita shards, lettuce, tomatoes, feta, oregano and za'atar in it, pour the dressing over and mix together. Serve on a large platter or individual plates and top with the pomegranate seeds.

Tomato & Pomegranate Tabbouleh for High Summer

tomato 2

Basic Bulgar Wheat

For every 1⁄2 cup/75g of bulgar wheat you will need a pinch of salt, a splash of olive oil and 1/3 cup/75ml of boiling water (1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp/90ml for coarse grind). Place the bulgar wheat, oil and salt in a bowl and stir well till the grains are all coated in the oil. Pour over just-boiled water and quickly plastic wrap the bowl to seal in the steam. Leave for 5 minutes and then carefully uncover. Use a fork or a small whisk to fluff the bulgar wheat up and break the mass into individual grains (or rub it between your palms to break it up). Allow to cool uncovered and then it is ready to use.

It will keep like this for 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. 1⁄2 cup/75g of dried will make a generous 1 cup/150g of cooked bulgar wheat. This is the amount we use in most of the following recipes, each of which should be enough for 4–6 as part of a mezze selection. As these salads are all about freshness, at the restaurant we make a new batch for each service and only serve them that day. That said, whenever we have some left over, we eat it as staff lunch with tahini or yogurt the following day, and no one complains.

Tomato & Pomegranate Tabbouleh for High Summer

This is best made when tomatoes are in high season and are sweet and full of flavor. Use coarse grind bulgar wheat for this, as the soft tomatoes need the added crunch.

2⁄3 cup/100g cooked coarse grind bulgar wheat (see method above)
2⁄3 cup/100g fresh pomegranate seeds
1 tomato, diced
1 large bunch of parsley (about 1-1 1⁄2 cups), picked and chopped
3 sprigs of mint, picked and chopped
1 green chili, deseeded and chopped
2 inner stalks of celery, finely sliced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
generous 1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

Mix everything together in a bowl and adjust the seasoning to taste. Eat straight away.

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