Welcome to the debut article on the Gyspy World Spice Cafe blog.
Be sure to check out the “About” section to learn more about the author,
the reason for the blog and what this blog will be all about…
Why choose Sumac for the debut article?
I love to cook! I am always searching out new recipes and ingredients to try. Recently, I’ve read and viewed recipes that have the spice ingredient called Sumac. In fact, on one show recently, a contestant on a “cook off” pulled Sumac out and called it their secret ingredient. That was enough to spark my interest enough to try this spice. First I checked out my local grocery store and upscale markets. No luck there. It was time to take the research online…
What did I learn?
First and foremost, be very careful when buying the spice Sumac. Always buy the spice Sumac from a reputable source. You do not want to have it confused with an the ornamental Sumac shrub grown in America that has inedible poisonous white berries (aka Poison Oak).
The spice Sumac is grown in the Middle East and in parts of Italy. It has dark red berries that are sold as whole berries or as dried coarsley ground. It has a tart, fruity taste and the the smell is only slightly aromatic. This spice has been used for over 2,000 years ( mainly in Arabic cuisine as well in Turkey, Greece and Lebanon). North American Indians were known to use the spice Sumac to make a beer-like beverage. Typically the spice Sumac is used as a souring agent. It is often used as a substitute for lemons. It pairs well with grilled meats & fish, rice, beans, vegetables, marinades and salad dressings. It is especially well known for being excellent with tomatoes. Hummus is often served with a dusting of Sumac…. Hmmm. I thought it was Paprika…
I was very surprised to read about the spice Sumac’s medicinal uses and health benefits. It is known to have the affect to calm your stomach, promote digestion and reduce fever. I also read that some believe it to contain antioxidants and possess antimicrobial properties.
Finally Finding Sumac…
Empowered with all this information, I continued my search for the spice Sumac. While out and about with the family, we found that a new Mid-Eastern store had recently opened at a local shopping center. We all went inside to check it out and asked about Sumac — THEY HAD IT! After leaving the store, I carried my my purchase like I scored a treasure. Before we even got to the car, I had already opened the container to smell and taste the Sumac. It was pleasant and slightly tart. It was definitely not overpowering or dominant in either flavor or taste.
Cooking with Sumac
The next day, I hit the cookbooks and brainstormed ways to thread this new spice into my family meals over the next few weeks. I’ve incorporated the spice Sumac in breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer and even dessert dishes. I tried it on eggs, added it to both Pizza Sauce and Marinara Sauce, used it in hummus (adding a dusting on the top too), and on vegetables. It is very flexible and I think the best way to describe the spice Sumac is that is in my opinion it is a “flavor enhancer”. It takes food to the next level without you realizing it. It is a background flavor that leaves you wondering hmmmm this is good and I’m not sure why… At this point, I cannot imagine my spice cabinet without the spice Sumac.
Traditional Recipe # 1 – Za’atar
This traditional spice blend is used on vegetables and flatbread. You can mix it with olive oil or yogurt to make a very good dip.
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon sumac
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Mix all ingredients in a small container with a lid. Give it a good shake.
Traditional Recipe #2 – Warm Chickpea and Swiss Chard Salad with Sumac
9 oz. dried chickpeas
1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
1 teaspoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 lbs swiss chard
3 tablespoons fresh mint
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tablespoons ground sumac
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 3/4 hours, or until tender. Drain.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes, or until soft and just starting to turn brown. Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and dice the flesh. Add to the pan with the sugar, cinnamon and garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
- Wash the swiss chard and dry with paper towel. Add to the tomato mix with the chickpeas; cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the swiss chard wilts. Add the mint, lemon juice and sumac; season and cook for 1 minute. Serve at once.
Blogger’s Comment: I chose to use only 1/4 cup of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper…
Taster Comments: One taster commented “This stuff is great!”. Another taster commented “Love It!” and ate two servings.
Source: Taste of the Mediterranean Step-By-Step by Bay Books
Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Sumac Scented Cherry Almond Chocolate Bark
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped finely
1-1/2 teaspoons sumac, divided
Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.
Place the chocolate chips into a medium sized bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the chips have softened up. Stir until smooth.Stir in cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of sumac.
Pour the melted chocolate mixture onto the wax paper. Using a spatula, evenly spread the chocolateSprinkle the cherries and almonds on top. Using an off-set spatula, gently press into the chocolate.
Dust the chocolate with the remaing 1/2 teaspoon of sumac.
- Chill until set. Break into smaller pieces and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Variation: If you like a creamier texture, add 1-2 oz of half/half to the chocolate chips (before melting). Then add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract too if you like. It will take longer to set…
Taster Comments: One taster asked if I had added Cherry Juice as they had picked up on the fruity flavor of the Sumac. My younger tasters, got caught eating too much of the chocolate… they had it on their faces when I caught them …
Working on developing my own spice blends. The next few articles will continue with the Sumac theme and be about the Sumac Spice blends. You will also see mini-articles to give some other tips and facts about the Spice Scene…