The spice world continues to amaze me with the different and unusual spices I find to cook with. Like Sumac. Sumac has a tangy lemony taste to it.
Research has found sumac to have antimicrobial properties. Research further suggests that it may be used to treat and prevent hyperglycemia, diabetes and obesity due to hypoglycemic properties.
Recent research suggests that sumac has antioxidant properties. In one experiment, the drinking water of animals was supplemented with sumac, and it was found that there was less oxidized DNA bases in their colons, livers, lungs and lymphocytes.
Now most people especially in the USA are familiar with just a few types of Sumac. There are in fact approximately 250 species worldwide. Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 metres (3.3–33 ft).
The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus are ground into a deep-red or purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as humus and is added to salads in the Levant. In Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisine, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Turkish cuisine, it is added to salad-servings of kebabs and lahmacun. Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za’atar.
Not to be confused with the poison sumac plant that flourishes in North America (although it is a close relation), sumac spice comes from berries harvested from a bush that can be found in the wild all across the Mediterranean.
Though we mostly know it from Middle Eastern cuisines, medieval Europeans used it as a spice, medicine, and food dye. Native North Americans steeped their sumac berries with water to make a refreshing sumac-ade.
I have found several spice places that you can buy Sumac online in the States and Canada. Or you can browse your local specialty store, they might or might not carry it. My suggestion would be to call and ask first.
Here is one place I found it online to order: The Spice House
Syrian Za’atar Recipe
- 1/4 cup ground sumac, dry
- 2 teaspoons dry thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Serves / Yields
about 5 tablespoons
Grind all ingredients in a blender, mortar and pestle, spice mill, or clean coffee grinder until powdered.
Use this blend to dust meat before cooking, season oil and vinegar dressed salads, or in any middle-eastern style cooking.
- 1 can (15-16 ounces) chickpeas
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt, to taste
- 1 teaspoon sumac powder
Serves / Yields
2 1/2 cups
Drain and rinse the chickpeas, reserving 1/2 cup chickpea liquid. Set aside 1/4 cup of the chickpeas for garnishing, if you like.
Place the tahini in a food processor, or blender, and pulse with the garlic and lemon juice until smooth. With the machine running, add the 1/2 cup reserved chickpea liquid and 1 3/4 cup chickpeas. Process until well blended and smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice and salt. Cover and set hummus aside, at room temperature, to let the flavors meld.
Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables
- 1 zucchini (halved lengthwise)
- 1 yellow squash (halved lengthwise)
- 1 japanese eggplant (halved lengthwise)
- 1 red onion (halved and sliced into 12 inch thick rings)
- 1 red bell pepper
- coarse salt
- black pepper
- 8 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil (vegetables)
- 1 14 cups couscous (israeli)
- 3 tbsps lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 2 tsps ground sumac
- 1 cup grape tomatoes (halved)
- 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley (chopped fresh)
- 2 tbsps basil (thinly sliced)
- Preheat a grill pan over medium heat. Season zucchini, squash, eggplant, onion, and red pepper with salt and pepper. Lightly brush vegetables with oil.
- Place zucchini and squash on grill pan and cook, turning once, 3 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. Place eggplant on grill pan and cook, turning once, until nicely caramelized and tender, about 4 minutes per side; transfer to plate with zucchini and squash. Place onion on grill pan and cook, turning once, 4 minutes per side; transfer to plate with zucchini, squash, and eggplant.
- Place red pepper on grill and cook until all sides are charred, about 10 minutes. Place the pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let steam 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pepper from bowl and peel using a paring knife. Cut pepper in half, remove stem and discard seeds; transfer pepper to plate with zucchini, squash, eggplant, and onion.
- Cut all vegetables into bite-size pieces; set aside.
- Bring a large pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add salt and return to a boil. Add couscous and cook until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and place couscous in a large serving bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add grilled vegetables, tomatoes, parsley, and basil; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, and sumac powder. Slowly whisk in remaining 1/4 cup oil; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over couscous salad and gently toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.
Grilled Cornish Game Hens with Lemon, Sumac, and Date Relish
This recipe yields two extra portions for second helpings. The hens are brined for at least six hours, so be sure to plan ahead.
- 9 cups water
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
- 5 1 1/4- to 11/2-pound Cornish game hens, cut lengthwise in half, backbone removed
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons ground sumac
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 10 very thin lemon slices
- Date Relish
Combine 9 cups water, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and coarse salt in large nonreactive pot. Stir until salt dissolves. Add hen halves and press to submerge. Refrigerate hens in brine, weighing down with heavy plate if needed, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
Whisk 1/2 cup lemon juice, oil, and sumac in medium bowl. Press in garlic cloves; season with pepper. Let dressing stand 15 minutes to thicken slightly, whisking occasionally.
Drain hens. Pat dry with paper towels; arrange on large rimmed baking sheet. Using fingertips, loosen skin of breast meat on each hen half. Brush some dressing under skin onto breast meat of each hen; place lemon slice onto breast meat and pull skin over to cover. Brush hens all over with remaining dressing. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place hens, skin side up, on grill rack. Cover and grill until bottom sides are brown, about 8 minutes. Turn hens over; grill uncovered until skin sides brown, about 6 minutes. Continue to grill until hens are cooked through, turning occasionally, about 9 minutes longer. Transfer hens to platter. Serve with Date Relish
- 8 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2/3 cup chopped pitted Deglet Noor dates
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
- 2 teaspoons (about) minced seeded deveined habanero chile (from 1 chile)
Combine all ingredients except habanero chile in medium bowl; toss to blend. Add chile to taste. Season relish to taste with salt. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Test-kitchen tip:The seeds and veins from the super-hot habanero chile tames it a bit. To protect your hands when handling the chile, wear disposable gloves.