Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sumac: A taste of the Middle East

When I'm not traveling, I like to cook at home with Gman. I love cooking, in fact. I love using my hands to make something and I like experimenting with new combinations (lucky for me, Gman will eat just about anything).

I like to cook with ingredients we collect from our adventures. We’ve bought olive oil and lavender from the South of France, honey from West Virginia, apples in the Hudson River Valley, beer in Denver, wine in Napa Valley, barbecue sauce in Savannah, smoked salt from Seattle, and strawberry jam from Germany – just to name a few! Recently on a trip to the Middle East, Gman had the once in a lifetime chance to visit a spice market in Erbil, Iraq and brought home a huge bag of sumac.

Sumac is a spice commonly found throughout the Middle East. (It is not from a poisonous plant of a similar name in North America.) Dried and ground up, it has a reddish color and is used as a spice in food and as a dye (even turns your fingers red when you handle it). Sumac has a tart lemony flavor that is wonderful on everything from fish, chicken, lamb, veggies, hummus, and even just on rice. Gman argues it is best simply on kebobs.

I’ve really enjoyed adding this spice to our meals. I cook chicken breast in olive oil and a little bit of white wine. Then add the sumac once it is finished cooking in the pan. Adding it at the end is key, as it will burn during the cooking process. I also add it to my routine hummus and Stacy’s pita chips (I would say hummus and veggies, but let’s be honest with ourselves, those pita chips are so salty and delicious).

Have you ever tried introducing a new ingredient to your regular meals? Has it been successful?

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