Friday, August 1, 2008

My "New" Favorite Spice: Sumac

Sumac isn't completely new to our household. But, it always FEELS like a new discovery during the summer, when it seems to lend itself to a host of dishes.

I love it sprinkled on hummus, thrown over freshly grilled veggies, added to salads, or tossed into yogurt sauce. And the fact is, nothing brings the same tangy *zing* to chicken as a nice sprinkling of ground sumac. Nigella Lawson provides a great basic recipe for Za'atar Chicken in her book Forever Summer

Used by ancient peoples before lemon was widely available, sumac (made from dried ground berries from the sumac bush) brings a tart, fruity flavor to a variety of dishes. In addition to using sumac alone, we also love it combined with other herbs -- most commonly as za'atar.
There are numerous variations of the Arab herbal mixture known as za'atar (or zhatar). In addition to sumac (which is common), the mixture often includes sesame seeds (whole or ground), salt, thyme, oregano or marjoram, savory, cumin, coriander, or even fennel. We happen to use a combination that includes sumac, thyme leaves, white sesame seeds, and salt.
Medical studies have suggested that za'atar has some antioxidant properties, and it may also stimulate antimicrobial activity against microorganisms as Salmonella and Staphylococcus (good news in this climate of food borne illness). But, we love it simply because it tastes good.

The best part is, you can obtain your very own little piles of sumac and za'atar from Penzey's or The Spice House (though I'd always encourage you to support your own local spice distributors if you can).

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  1. Love love sumac. Its so pretty sprinkled on just about everything! Thanks for all the info. I get mine from Penzeys.

  2. I have never heard of sumac, I guess I learned something new.

  3. I've never seen sumac before! How neat that it provides a tart and fruity flavor to foods!That za'atar mixture sounds amazingly good, too! This is my something new for the day! Great post!

  4. I have sumac in the pantry but never tried it on its own. Have tried it as a substitute for lemon in a lamb dish. Thanks for the info. Any sumac recipes coming up?

  5. TS - I've had a hankering for middle eastern food, so I'll try to put something on the menu soon!

  6. I love Sumac and Za'atar. I always have some in my pantry. I didn't know about the health properties though. One more reason to use it. Thanks for all that great info!

  7. Love Za'atar. I get it at Israeli stores. I sprinkle it in olive oil and dip bread in it. Yum.

    Found you through Photograzing.

  8. Using za'atar in a dipping oil is a great idea.

    We also like to sprinkle it on top of home-baked flatbreads before they go into the oven!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. informative post!! i've gots to get me some sumac now. i'm on a mission.

  10. love za-atar with any lebne, goat sheese, greek yogurt, hummus, dippng things! Thanks for additional info on it and sumac!


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