The Best Dish I've Made in 2021 So Far (and a Peek at Our Recipe Process)

We’re developing a butternut squash and apple fattoush—with the help of 83,000 fans like you.

Published Mar. 27, 2021.

If you watched Weekend Today on NBC, you may have seen a sneak preview of a Butternut Squash and Apple Fattoush recipe we’re currently developing. I made it last week, and it’s honestly the best dish I’ve made this year.

During that segment, NBC’s Kristen Welker and her Weekend Today co-host Peter Alexander prepared this “under-construction” recipe in their home kitchens. My family and I loved this vegetable salad with crunchy pita, tender roasted squash, and juicy apple—the contrasting textures are especially appealing. The radicchio, parsley, and scallion provide punchy notes and the lemony dressing is aggressively bright, which is just how I like my food. If you’ve never cooked with sumac, buy some today. This citrusy, raisin-y spice is the not-so-secret ingredient in this salad and countless dishes from the eastern Mediterranean.

The Weekend Today segment focused on our unique recipe development process, in preparation of a new cookbook—a sequel to The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, published back in 2016 and now approaching 500,000 copies in print.

500 Vibrant, Kitchen-Tested Recipes

The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

Bring the Mediterranean—from Italy and Greece, to Morocco and Egypt, to Turkey and Lebanon—into your kitchen with 500+ fresh, flavorful recipes. This comprehensive cookbook translates the famously healthy Mediterranean diet for home cooks with a wide range of creative recipes, many fast enough to be made on a weeknight, using ingredients available at your local supermarket.  
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The segment featured the Masri family—the real stars of the segment and our recipe testing process. At America’s Test Kitchen, we have 35 test cooks developing recipes for our magazines, books, and products for children. But we don’t publish a recipe until our 83,000 volunteer home testers (the Friends of America’s Test Kitchen) give us their okay.

Back in February, we sent our working recipe for Butternut Squash and Apple Fattoush to testers across the country. We heard back from 135 home cooks who made the recipe and completed a detailed survey. Overall, our testers liked this recipe, with 84% of respondents telling us they would add this dish to their repertoire. 

Like me, some of our home testers struggled with cutting the pitas (my kitchen shears were too dull and I switched to a knife). A few testers discovered that their ovens are running hot and the pitas overbrowned. (We ended up expanding the time range so everyone will check on their pitas on the early side.) Many testers asked about buying already-prepped squash (sure!), or if the salad can be made in advance—the pitas will soften over time but the salad can be held at room temperature for an hour or two or refrigerated for a day.

We know that you count on our recipes to work. And the Friends of America’s Test Kitchen help us keep that promise. Want to test our recipes? Click here to join the Friends of America’s Test Kitchen. And if you have children ages 7 to 18, please help us test recipes, activities, and science experiments for ATK Kids

Thank you to Kristen Welker and Peter Alexander for testing this recipe and showcasing our work. And thank you to the Masri family for opening their home to the crew from Weekend Today and testing our recipes for the past 10 years!

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Butternut Squash and Apple Fattoush

Serves 4 to 6

Flatbreads are a mainstay of tables across the Mediterranean, but the thin breads stale quickly, so creative dishes designed to use them up abound. Such recipes are called fatteh, derived from the Arabic word fatta, meaning “to crumble.” Levantine pita bread salad, or fattoush, is a common example—and its appeal goes far beyond leftovers. The vibrant mix is simple but a textural marvel, combining crumbled toasted, fried, or day-old bread with summertime produce (tomatoes and cucumbers), fresh herbs, and greens, all simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and lavished with sumac.

We thought about how to carry the experience into the colder months, when tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t at their peak. We conjured a combination with distinctly fall flavors that still boasts fantastic contrasts in texture. Crisp sweet apples and slightly bitter radicchio provide fresh crunch, while roasted butternut squash gives the salad complexity and is a caramelized, soft, creamy foil to the crisp pieces of pita. We prefer a sweeter crisp apple like Pink Lady or Fuji to complement the bright lemony dressing.

  • 2 (8-inch) pita breads, halved
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ⅛ plus ¾ teaspoon table salt, divided
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons ground sumac, plus extra for serving
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 apple, cored and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ head radicchio, cored and chopped (1 cup)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin

1. Adjust oven racks to middle and lowest positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Using kitchen shears, cut around perimeter of each pita half and separate into 2 thin half moons. Place pitas smooth side down on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Brush rough side of pitas evenly with 3 tablespoons oil then sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper. (Pitas do not need to be uniformly coated with oil.) Bake on middle rack until pitas are crisp and pale golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread in even layer on rimmed baking sheet and roast on bottom rack until tender, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

3. Whisk lemon juice, sumac, garlic, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt together in small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in remaining ¼ cup oil.

4. Break cooled pitas into ½-inch pieces and place in large bowl. Add roasted squash, apple, radicchio, parsley, and scallions. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkling individual portions with extra sumac.

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