Frequently popping up in Middle Eastern cooking, dark red sumac is a wonderful spice to have on hand. Its appealingly sour fruity flavor pairs well with fish and with rice or pilafs, and it's a nice way to jazz up creamy dips. Along with thyme and sesame seeds, sumac is one of the key ingredients of zaatar, a simple, flavorful spice blend used throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean.
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It's not some new weapon, in fact it's been around a long time! We don't know how old, but we assume it's almost as old as dirt. (it needs the dirt to grow in) It's Rhus Coriaria, known more commonly as Sumac.
This deep red (when ground) powder is potent. Our source supplies chefs, so the turnover is high, an important fact when getting spices.
Though you can get sumac in pill form, and many do, we like to add Sumac to rubs, sprinkle on top of hummus, and include it in rice and beans. Whether you use a dash or a measured amount, sumac in your food tastes better than in does in a pill form. It has it's own natural oils, and it's sour lemon tartness is distinct. For color you can substitute paprika, but for taste their is none like it.
Ripening in the summer, it is used in a wonderful lemonade like drink. Not to be confused with poison sumac, it is also used in the classic Lebanese spice mix Za'atar. Mix with olive oil, as spread for a sandwich. Spread it on dough, bake it, and you have a "Man'oocheh", a traditional flat bread.
You might not use it today, but it is definitely worth adding it to your everyday pantry.