Roland Semaan and Youssef Said met in Beirut when they were both about six years old. Their mothers came from the same village: “We are like brothers,” Semaan says. Eventually, their paths diverged–Semaan came to New York and worked for B.R. Guest restaurants and Said moved to Ohio, where he opened two restaurants of his own. But the duo always wanted to open a restaurant together, so about a year ago Said moved to New York, and the two started work on Balade, a Lebanese restaurant in the East Village that will open on Monday.
Semaan says that Balade, which means “fresh,” is the first restaurant he knows of in New York to make homemade manakeesh, a traditional Lebanese pitza that’s distinct in that it is thicker than most. “The restaurant is warm, like Lebanon,” he says. “The chef is from Lebanon; the decorations are from Lebanon; the water is served in special Lebanese pottery.”
Read on to get Semaan’s recipe for fattoush, a simple Lebanese bread salad.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
Sumac is a Lebanese spice that can be found in any Middle Eastern store. Try Sahadi’s or Kalustyan’s.
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 1/2 a head of lettuce)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 small cucumbers, sliced
1 radish, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, sliced
1 piece of pita bread, toasted until golden brown, broken into small pieces
In a large bowl, place the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, radish, and green pepper. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, sumac, and salt. Add the onion to the dressing, and when ready to serve, pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss together, until thoroughly combined. Sprinkle the toasted pita pieces on top. Serve immediately.