I am wild about sumac.
Maybe you’ve seen a bowl of hummus like this sprinkled with a pimento-colored spice. It’s not paprika or cayenne (heaven forbid), but a citrusy seasoning from the Middle East called sumac.
I gave away packets of sumac at the 2 farmers’ markets I did in downtown Boston this week. (Thanks to Megan Gibbons and team at the Boston Public Market for setting me up and welcoming me with my piles of cookbooks.)
“Is it poison?” asked many people.
“Uh, no” was my first stumbled reply. If I was funny like Jon Stewart, I would have quipped, “Yes, I am distributing poisonous substances for publicity purposes only.”
Playing it straight, I told them that this dried berry is ground and traditionally used in the Middle East as a seasoning for rice and salads. I love it in combination with beef and recommend it sprinkled over kabobs or mixed with salt for a dry rub on a steak or burger. Look for it at any spice shop or gourmet grocer.
Tart and savory sumac brings a bright finishing note to many everyday foods, especially hummus. Whether yours is homemade or a store-bought brand, here’s a way to dress up the plain-old stuff: smear and swirl the hummus onto a wide, shallow plate, drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil and shower it with sumac.
On a hot July night, you can add a stack of pita bread and sliced tomato and call it dinner.