It’s time for another Eating the Alphabet recipe link-up where each month we make a recipe featuring a fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole grain from a different set of letters of the alphabet.
So far I’ve done:
(A or B): Buttercup Squash and Artichoke Pasta
(C or D): Grenadian Oil Down with Cassava (Favourite)
(E or F): Homemade Fig Newtons (Favourite)
(G or H): White Chicken Chili with Hominy
(I or J): Juniper Berry Bechamel
(K or L): Kamut Brioche
(M, N, or O): Caramelized Onions
(P, Q, or R): Pomegranate Glazed Eggplant (Favourite)
This month’s letters are S or T so I decided to take a look at Sumac.
Sumac Plant (Image source)
Sumac is a quintessential ingredient in Lebanese and Middle Eastern cooking. The sumac plant grows wildly in the Middle East and is harvested in the fall. A variety of sumac also grows wildly in North America, I’m sure you’ve seen it before, except the North American variety is poisonous. . . so don’t try foraging it in your back yard!
The sumac plant makes a cluster of tiny fruits that are ground into a powder that is used as a spice. It is deep purple in colour and has a lemony taste but is more tart than lemon. There’s really no good substitute for sumac.
Sumac Spice (Image Source)
One of my favourite use of sumac is in fattoush, a Lebanese chopped salad loaded with vegetables, dressing with a tangy sumac dressing, and topped with crispy fried pieces of pita. In this version I toasted the pita instead of fried it, which obviously isn’t as delicious as fried pita, but it is a quicker and easier variation.
This is a pretty standard fattoush recipe but you are free to play around with the ingredients a bit by adding chopped parsley or diced peppers or your favourite salad vegetable.
Keep in mind that the keys to the flavour of this salad are the fresh mint, the sumac, and the pita, so don’t sub these ingredients, whatever you do.
Makes one huge salad (enough for probably 8 people as a side dish)
1 head of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 medium English cucumber, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch radishes, halved and sliced
2 green onions, diced
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 large pita
2 cloves garlic
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for pita
2 T sumac, plus extra for pita
Preheat the oven to 325F. Brush the pita with the extra olive oil and sprinkle with the extra sumac. Toast in the oven until crispy and golden. Break the toasted pita into small shards and set aside.
Put all the salad ingredients into a large bowl and stir together.
Sprinkle the garlic with a dash of salt and mash with the side of a knife (or a pestle). Place the garlic in a small bowl and whisk in the lemon juice, sumac, and olive oil.
Pour the dressing over the salad and stir until all the ingredients are coated. Add the pita pieces and toss to combine.
(Click for more info on Eating the Alphabet)