Whenever I visit a Middle Eastern food store, I am always intrigued by a variety of different spices one can find there. I would love to use them all, but often have no idea where and how to add them.
Last year, I got a box of spices coming straight from a Turkish food market in Istanbul--the famous Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. It had ten small capsules filled with a variety of spices. Some, like mint, cumin, curry, or saffron, I knew very well and used very often, but others, like sumac, I probably ate, but never cooked with.
Having sumac already at home, I called my Afghan friend for advice and have learned that sumac is mostly used for meats, especially grilled ones, like kabob. I got from her a simple recipe for steaks that are marinated briefly in sumac and grilled. I have also learned that in Turkish cuisine, for example, sumac is sometimes added to hummus and salad because of its slightly salty and sour taste. Furthermore, in many Middle Eastern restaurants sumac is put on the table, as a basic spice, alongside salt and pepper.
Basically, it can be used whenever a recipe, especially coming from the Middle Eastern tradition, calls for a "squeeze of lemon". Since the grilling season is approaching, here is the simple recipe I got from my friend, to introduce sumac to our summer diet.
Steakes Marinated in Sumac
4 pieces of New York strip steaks,
2 garlic cloves, minced,
1 tbsp ground coriander,
2 tbsp sumac,
salt and pepper to taste.
1. Rub garlic and all the spices onto the meat and let it marinate for about an hour.
2. Grill or fry on oil and serve with salads, potatoes, rice, or Middle Eastern bread.