healthy eating · organic · Spice

This new spice I found Sumac’d me upside the head

~I’ve always had a passion for cooking, and the combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and endless marathons of Hell’s Kitchen have quenched my thirst for knowledge of new cultural cuisines to try. For Christmas I received a gift card to Target, and one of the things I got from it was a Gordon Ramsay cookbook, who is my culinary idol. As I flipped through the book I landed on a lamb recipe that called for something called ‘sumac’. I had no idea what sumac was at the time, but it sounded like a weird spice or something similar. A few months ago I happened to be grocery shopping at my local Jewel-Osco when lo and behold, I found sumac!

Turns out sumac is commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking in a blend called Za’taar seasoning, to garnish dishes such as hummus or baba ganoush (an eggplant based dip), or to season meats before roasting them. After doing a little research (thanks to thespicehouse.com), I learned that there are many species of sumac, but the one used to make sumac spice comes from Rhus coriaria, a small flowering tree with clusters of crimson berries native to Iran the grows wild in Western Asia, the Arabian pennisula, and throughout most of the Mediterranean.

Copyright from The Spice House’s blog post Spice Spotlight: Sumac; posted 2-10-20

Tonight for dinner I decided to be a little adventurous and try sumac for the first time. After climbing on a chair to reach the jar of sumac I put on the top shelf, I peeled open the jar and tasted a little bit on my finger. Since sumac is red in color, my brain immediately thought it would be spicy, but quite the opposite. It was very tart, like biting into a lemon but not as sour as a lemon, but also salty. It was pretty good!


After learning it’s used in Middle Eastern cooking, I decided to make a dry rub with it combined with: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, tumeric, coriander, and oregano slathered on some chicken thighs. I cut up some potatoes and pan fried them in garlic and olive oil seasoned with salt, pepper and sumac as a side dish. To round out the meal I made a spinach strawberry salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing enhanced with honey, olive oil, salt, pepper, and of course, sumac.

Everything was delicious! The spice blend I made for the chicken was more of a warm spice as opposed to a hot spice, the tartness of the sumac was a nice touch and the color contrast of the ruby red sumac and golden tumeric made for a beautiful presentation. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture because I was too busy enjoying it!!

To learn more about sumac spice and for tasty recipes, head to thespicehouse.com!

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