A Quest for Sumac
Sumac berry photo courtesy Wikipedia.
I’d been on the lookout for a spice called Sumac for a while, hoping it would take me out of the cooking rut I was stuck in. I read lots of recipes promising that Sumac would deliver an acidic punch to pretty much any salad, fish, or chicken dish, and I was looking forward to trying out this Middle Eastern staple. Sadly the Sumac, a fine red powder with a tart flavor, was proving difficult to track down.
Powdered Sumac photo courtesy Jules: Stone Soup.
I saw it on wholesale websites, and in Williams-Sonoma (for $7.95 per tiny bottle!), but knew there must be some small authentic market that would have it for cheap. After some extensive googling I learned about Sahadi’s — a magical Mediterranean grocery store in Brooklyn Heights. Sahadi’s stocks bulk bins of grains, dried fruits, nuts, olives, candies, any & all Middle Eastern provisions (hummus, babaganoush, etc), has a small baked goods section, and most importantly: Sumac. Best of all, everything in the store is super cheap. My generous container of Sumac was only 93 cents! I was in spice heaven:
After wandering around for way too long, I ended up walking away with the following: bag of spinach cous-cous ($2), a can of chickpeas ($0.90), Sumac ($0.93), a “nutella wheel” ($1), and a spinach and feta boureka ($0.75, sadly consumed on the way home, but photographed on the street).
Sahadi’s also stocks hummus in a can. I wasn’t brave enough to try it (why is it ready to eat? should it be refrigerated first?), but I wish I had been — it was only $1. Next time, for sure:
After all that effort, I was worried the Sumac would let me down. Was it really worth the special trek, despite the cheap price?
Well, I’m pleased to report that the Sumac flavoring definitely lived up to my high expectations. It’s lemony and sweet, without overpowering the dish, and complements pretty much anything I’ve put it on. It’s interesting that it’s acceptable to sprinkle the Sumac on both during and after the cooking process. There’s a lot of spices (say cumin, for example), that I think would be unpalatable when sprinkled on at the table (would be way too dry on your tongue). But apparently it’s quite common for a small bowl of Sumac to be served at the same time as dinner, as if it’s a condiment.
So far I’ve had the Sumac on chicken, chickpeas, and eggplant, and it’s really enhanced each dish. I’ve been sprinkling about a teaspoon amount on while sauteeing the chicken, etc. The light and tart flavor has been a great addition to my summer dinners, especially when paired with wilted spinach, cooked couscous, or chopped fresh veggies.
- September 10 2013 | - Read More →