Cooking With Sumac

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So sumac.  Yea…I had NO clue what this was about 5 years ago.  Never tasted it.  Never saw it.  But thankfully, Dario introduced me to this bright pink, tart ground berry.  It has now become one of my all time favorite spices in the entire world.  Yes…it’s that amazing.  We go through bottle and after bottle of sumac in our house.  I may like it even more than salt, which is definitely saying something.  It’s delicious!

sumac Sumac is a berry native to the Eastern Europe area and the Middle East – a distant cousin to poison ivy.  It’s small, like the size of a slightly large caper.  And the color is beautiful – a deep red or magenta color.  The berries are picked and then dried.  Most of the time you’ll find them already ground, but you may find them in their whole form and you can grind them yourself.  It’s used extensively in Syrian, Lebanese, Turkish and many other cuisines of that region.  In Europe, it was used to add a sour/tart flavor to foods before lemons arrived (didn’t know that Europe was lemon-less at some point?).  Generally, it’s used in cooking but even more commonly as a tabletop condiment in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisines to give a fruity sourness to a variety of foods (that’s my favorite part).

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sumac, zatar, vegetarian recipes, flat bread, salad, healthy recipes, fatuous, lebanese recipes, vegan recipes Additionally, sumac is one of the key ingredients to the spice blend known as Za’tar – a mix of sesame seeds, thyme, sumac, salt and a few other spices.  Amazing!  Just like sumac, za’tar can be used in a variety of settings – either during cooking or added afterwards like you would salt or pepper.  Besides the sumac, all the spices in the za’tar blend are very common and easily found in your local grocery store (though you can find za’tar already made too).  Do note that some sumac that is pre-ground has salt mixed in it.  It’s best to get sumac without the added salt so you can control the sodium in your foods.

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sumac, zatar, vegetarian recipes, flat bread, salad, healthy recipes, fatuous, lebanese recipes, vegan recipes Sumac has this wonderful quality that just brightens up any dish.  I love adding it to salads, grilled vegetables and grain dishes.  It’s great on any type of cuisine too – not just the typical Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dish.  My absolute favorite two dishes that feature Sumac (and a little Za’tar too) are my homemade Lebanese flatbread and fattoush salad (see recipes below).  But sumac is also great on:

  • Sprinkled on grilled or baked fish, chicken, lamb or beef
  • Mixed into salad dressings or vinaigrettes
  • Dusted on top of hummus or other bean dips
  • Added to a rice pilaf, couscous, quinoa or other grain dishes
  • Sprinkled into olive oil where you’d dip some nice toasty bread or pita
  • A fresh tomato salad with cucumbers and red onions would pair wonderfully with sumac
  • Any recipe or dish you would add lemon to, try adding a few dashes of sumac

sumac, zatar, vegetarian recipes, flat bread, salad, healthy recipes, fatuous, lebanese recipes, vegan recipes Sumac is gaining popularity, but you still might not find it in your everyday grocery store.  But check!  It might be there.  Otherwise a spice shop, online stores, and even William-Sonoma sells it.  Once you grab a bottle (which you really need to), I highly suggest trying out these two recipes – my Lebanese Flatbread and Fattoush Salad.  Or whip up a small batch of Za’tar which can be used on just about anything!

Lebanese Flatbread with Lebneh & Za’tar:
Ingredients:

  • 10 oz whole wheat flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp za’tar seasoning blend or ground sumac
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. To make the lebneh, place a few sheets of cheese cloth or paper towels in a fine mesh sieve.  Place the sieve over a bowl and put the yogurt into the sieve.  Allow to drain for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400F.  If you have a pizza stone, allow to heat up with the oven.
  3. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on medium low with the dough hook attachment for about 10 minutes.  You want to build good gluten structure.  You know the dough is ready when you can stretch a piece and it’s translucent and doesn’t tear.  Something similar to pizza dough.
  4. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Roll out in desired sizes on parchment.  Either place directly onto a pizza stone or bake on a metal sheet tray.
  6. Bake flatbread for about 10-12 minutes – shorter times yields a chewier softer crust, long times will yield a crunchier and crispy bread.
  7. After the bread has cooled slightly, spread a few tablespoons of the lebneh onto the flatbreads.
  8. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and za’tar spice if desired.  Serve warm.

Fattoush Salad:
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce, sliced thin
  • 1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small bag of whole wheat pita chips, lightly crushed
  • 1 cup cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp ground sumac
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Allow salad to sit for about 10 minutes before serving to allow the pita chips to absorb some of the dressing.  Serve at room temperature.

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