~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.
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!