This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs the theme is "New to Me"--recipes with ingredients that are new, newish or less familiar to us. I decided to choose sumac, a Middle Eastern spice that I was not that familiar with before we started cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi, but has now become a new favorite with its bright tart, almost lemony flavor.
If you aren't familiar with Sumac, Penzeys Spices website says, "Cherry red sumac is used extensively throughout the Middle East, especially in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, either plain or mixed with thyme leaves and sesame seeds (Zatar) as a tabletop condiment. Before the arrival of lemons in Europe, the ancient Romans used sumac for its sour flavor. In the Mediterranean region today, sumac is used as a tabletop condiment or added during cooking to lend a pleasant, fruity sourness and soft cherry color to sauces, poultry, fish, and Turkish salads. The flavor is on the order of lemon juice or vinegar but milder and less acidic. Because of the moistness of the fresh, whole sumac berries, a small amount of salt is added during processing to facilitate grinding."
I have used it in both Ottolenghi's Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds and Na'ama's Fattoush (Bread & Vegetable Salad). But, since I bought a REALLY big jar of it for $6.98, I have been finding other uses for it. My current favorite use is on eggs. Something about the tartness really works--on deviled eggs, scrambled eggs or my particular pick--sprinkled over perfectly fried eggs with firm whites and runny yolks and served with slices of grilled bread--preferably consumed on my back lanai on a sunny morning.
While trolling online for Ottolenghi recipes using sumac, I came across this one for Spinach with Sumac, Pine Nuts, and Fresh Cheese over at Design Sponge. It's an exclusive recipe for the site, so I'll send you over there for the recipe. I fell in love with the simplicity of it--baby spinach is sauteed in olive oil for a few minutes until wilted, then sumac, garlic lemon juice, fresh dill, salt and black pepper are stirred in. The spinach is then piled into bowls or plates and topped with spoonfuls of fresh soft cheese, toasted pine nuts, drizzled with chile oil and finished with more sumac.
I made a few changes to the recipe--reducing the oil, swapping out the small spinach leaves for baby kale (the local baby kale looked better than the bags of baby spinach) and replacing the soft curd cheese or quark with local goat cheese. The result was a fabulous blend of flavors--the dill and sumac complemented each other and the chile oil was a good little hit of spice. The warm spinach was wonderful with the creamy goat cheese and soft crunch of the pine nuts. Quick and easy, this dish will be another great way to use my sumac.
You can check out the links at the New to Me post at the IHCC website to see what new ingredients the other participants picked to cook with this week.
If you are into fun foodie books, I am giving away a copy of "Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food" by Darlene Barnes. You can read my review, see a recipe inspired by the book, and enter to win by leaving a comment by 11:59 PM on Monday 9/9 for a chance to win a copy of your own (you are eligible if you are in the U.S. or Canada) here.
Happy Aloha Friday!