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Cooking with something new: Sumac

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Turkish Shepherd's Salad with sumac

Turkish Shepherd's Salad with sumac by Sara Shepherd

Until a few weeks ago, I knew sumac as a vigorous weed that grows in the ditches alongside Kansas highways and turns bright red in the fall.

It turns out, Middle Eastern people have known for hundreds, if not thousands, of years that dried and ground berries of the sumac plant make a tasty addition to food (not necessarily Kansas ditch-sumac, there are many varieties of the species). I've since noticed that Aladdin Cafe has a dish called Sumac Chicken on the menu, too.

My friend recently hosted a Turkey-themed dinner party (not random, she was just back from a three-week trip there) where she and her husband made main courses for the feast and assigned side dishes to the rest of us. My assignment was Shepherd’s Salad, with a note saying I didn’t have to use the sumac the recipe called for if I didn’t have any.

Of course, I didn’t have any (I didn’t even know what it was). But of course, I was curious. I Googled, determined I could surely find some in bulk at a Middle Eastern market in Kansas City, and wasn’t disappointed — only $2 for a big scoop, too!

The flavor is bright and citrusy, a little like coriander but more earthy. The color is a beautiful deep purpley-red.

Everyone liked this fresh pretty dish, which works as a salad alongside kebabs, lamb or fish, or an an appetizer or snack with crusty bread (to soak up the juice!).

TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD

Servings: 4

2 large tomatoes, diced

1/2 large cucumber, diced

1 Anaheim pepper, diced

1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 tablespoon sumac

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place all vegetables in a medium sized salad bowl. Add sumac, salt, pepper and mint. Toss. Drizzle with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Chill until ready to serve.

(Recipe adapted from giverecipe.com and english.turkishcookbook.com.)

Comments

Ken Lassman 2 years, 6 months ago

I wonder how the sumac sprinkles are prepared? Sumac berries contain a hard seed in the middle that is fine when you suck on the berry to get the flavor, but would not work if you put it on a salad. Maybe it is just ground up, seed and all?

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

Unfortunately sumac is like mushrooms. Some good, some bad. Newbies venturing into eatable plant life should study up on the difference between poison sumac and non-poision sumac.

With all the spraying going on I don't know how many local plants are left that are eatable. I believe from the old Boy Scout days there were at one time over a hundred of them. My favorite use to be lambs quarter and chokecherries. Chokecherry jelly is yummy.

Ken Lassman 2 years, 6 months ago

No poison sumac in Kansas, fortunately. If sumac is sprayed its leaves will turn bright red or yellow and fall off--unless it's fall, in which case they will turn red and fall off due to the time of year. I've found that sumac is best shortly after the berries have turned red, If you wait too long, they'll taste dusty and lose that sweet-tart zing.

rockchalker52 2 years, 6 months ago

"Sufferin' Succotash!" - Yosemite Sam

One of the all time great expletives

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