whole food ~ well made

Do You Know What Your Hummus Is Missing?

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 two 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.) It pairs wonderfully with beef, and is an ingredient in the recipe for Feta-stuffed Sliders in my cookbook Pure Beef.

“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.”

Wild about sumac

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 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:

  1. smear and swirl the hummus onto a wide, shallow plate
  2. drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil
  3. shower it with sumac

On a hot July night, you can add a stack of pita bread and sliced tomato and call it dinner.


and become a forager


  1. Really nice web site. Your blog caught my eye on the list of attendees for the Portland conference. As coincidence has it, I’ve been thinking about making my own hummus. I’ll be buying sumac at my local spice shop. Also, I’m a new subscriber and look forward to your posts.

  2. Thank you! I hope to meet you at the upcoming conference in Portland.
    PS: 5 second rule and rural eating are teaming up for a dinner on 8/23 in celebration of their spring 2012 Running Press cookbooks (“Ripe” and “Pure Beef”).

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