The Middle East has a rich and aromatic history of spices. More commonly known spices from this region include cumin, nutmeg, and cardamon. While Sumac spice may not have the same reputation, it has been around for centuries.
Sumac berries come from a shrub called Rhus Coriaria. This shrub thrives in a wild and rocky environment. For this reason, places such as Sicily, Turkey, and Iran offer a perfect climate to grow well. Sumac berries are a vibrant red. When dried and ground up, the color transforms into a beautiful burgundy.
Due to this vivid red color, the ancient Greeks and Romans used Sumac to dye wool and tan leather. Furthermore, Sumac was used in alternative healing practices for its anti-oxidant and antimicrobial properties, promoting good health. In our current times, Sumac spice is hugely prevalent in Mediterranean cuisine. Let's explore this unique spice's uses, tastes, and health benefits!
What Is Sumac Spice Used For?
There are several uses for Sumac spice. It is complementary to the flavor of many vegetables. If you are an eggplant fan, Sumac is the perfect go-to spice. Equally, when added to a meat rub and used generously on a leg of lamb. You can expect a super flavor burst!
The dinner table spread is elaborate when it comes to Lebanese Family gatherings. Amongst the generous food offerings, you are sure to see a selection of bread (zaatar), salads (fatoush), soups, and meat dishes, to name a few. The remarkable taste matches the sight of this exquisite cuisine. Let's look at a few essential Middle Eastern culinary delights incorporating Sumac.
Sumac in Zaatar
Zaatar is the "salt" of Lebanese cuisine. Indeed, this fragrant spice mix is a staple used in cooking, sprinkled over crisp salads and freshly baked bread. Furthermore, when plating your hummus. Add a healthy drizzle of Lebanese olive oil and top this off with Zaatar. Few eating pleasures are more satisfying than tucking into a Zaatar-infused hummus with fresh pita.
This ancient spice mix consists of the following main ingredients:
Roasted Sesame Seeds
Certainly, you can add your personal touch with a bit of dried orange zest, dried dill, or hyssop. There are a variety of Lebanese recipes that include Zaatar. So, keep a bottle of this incredible spice mix on your meal table at all times for that ultimate taste sensation!
Interested in making zaatar? Continue reading about the "Best Middle Eastern Zaatar Brands You Can Find Online!"
Sumac in Fatoush Salad (Main Image)
Come rain or shine, chilly or warm. No Lebanese feast is complete without a Fatoush Salad. Leftover bread or pita is a typical affair in many homes. A Fatoush Salad is an excellent way to use your leftover starch.
Whip up a garden-fresh salad with essential greens such as romaine lettuce. Add some finely chopped vine-ripe tomatoes, cool cucumber, green pepper, radishes, green onions, and chopped parsley. Then, get your creative culinary vibe on and cubed your bread. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and Zaatar. Toast or fry to crispy perfection. Add these to your salad.
Now for the exciting part. The dressing! A delicate balance of extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, mint, pomegranate molasses, and our topic spice - Sumac. Toss and tuck it. Sound delicious? It is!
This salad is bright and refreshing. Appreciate it on its own, and it is particularly delicious served alongside chicken tawook or beef kafta.
Sumac in Lebanese Chicken
A healthy and quick chicken dish is always welcome in any home. All love this particular Lebanese-inspired chicken meal. The ingredients are simple, consisting of chicken pieces, potatoes, and carrots. Once prepared, everything is tossed together with a Lebanese 7-spice mix and, of course, Sumac.
A 7-spice (Bokharat) mix is the "masala" of Lebanese spices. However, that is another story for another time. Sumac is particularly delicious on potatoes. While roasting, the aroma will have your palate salivating. Upon being served, there is sure to be a negotiation about who gets the last few crispy potatoes.
What Does Sumac Taste Like?
Calling all spice lovers with a "zest" for flavor! Sumac spice has the unexpected taste of fresh lemon. Yes, you read that correctly. You may be somewhat surprised when you taste Sumac for the first time.
It offers your taste buds a subtle balance of sweet and sour, followed by a sharp zesty bite. Indeed, Sumac spice is enticing on its own. In the same way, it blends very well with other aromatic Middle Eastern spices, as we have seen.
What Are the Health Benefits of Sumac?
Sumac has earned the title of a "Superfood Spice". Here is a list of health benefits Sumac can offer you:
It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory
It's packed with anti-oxidants
It has the ability to neutralize free radicals associated with cancer
Can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with type 2 diabetes
On the whole, Sumac spice is delicious, healthy, and nutritious. The movement of Sumac into Western cuisine is on the rise. The powerful zesty punch it offers is being utilized in everyday seasoning and recipes more and more. You have every reason to add this "Super Spice" to your pantry list!
A YallaBoston Member's Tantalizing Tip: drizzle Lebanese olive oil over garden peas and add a generous shake of Sumac. Your children will love it!
Let us know what you use sumac for in the comments below!