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Sprinkle it on freely ... sprightly sumac.

IN THE MIDDLE EAST, ONE species of sumac plant (Rhus coriaria) serves a multitude of purposes. It's used for fabric dyes, in medications, and for tanning. The tart red berries, dried, are used as a food seasoning.

This useful plant is not to be confused with three sumacs that grow wild in North America, all of which can cause severe dermatitis: poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac.

As edible sumac's red berries dry, they turn brick red or purplish in color; they are then ground into powders of varying fineness. We found that the finer grinds had the most intense sour tang and subtle fruity overtones. As is true of most spices and herbs, sumac's flavor fades over time. When you shop for the seasoning, a busy Middle Eastern market is likely to have the freshest, most fragrant choices. Store sumac airtight in a cool, dark place.

Use the spice freely, sprinkled on everyday foods like salads, soups, meats, and fish.

Shish Kebabs with Sumac

About 1/3 cup ground sumac

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chilies

2 pounds boned and fat-trimmed lamb leg or sirloin (in 1-in. cubes)

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

About 1 cup unflavored low-fat yogurt

Salt and pepper

In a bowl, mix together 1/3 cup sumac, ginger, allspice, and chilies. Add lamb and garlic; mix well. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. Thread meat onto skewers, keeping the pieces slightly apart.

Lay lamb on a grill 4 to 6 inches above a solid bed of medium coals (you can hold your hand at grill level for only 4 to 5 seconds). Turn frequently to brown evenly, and cook until meat is still pink in thickest part (cut to test), about 10 minutes.

Serve with yogurt and additional sumac, salt, and pepper to add to taste. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 238 cal. (31 percent from fat); 33 g protein; 8.3 g fat (3.1 g sat.); 5.6 g carbo.; 124 mg sodium; 102 mg chol.

Sumac-crusted Chicken

1 broiler-fryer chicken (3 1/2 to 4 lb.), quartered, skin and fat removed

About 1/3 cup ground sumac

1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon each pepper, salt, and ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons olive or salad oil

1 tablespoon water

About 1 cup unflavored nonfat yogurt (optional)

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Stir together 1/3 cup sumac, oregano, pepper, salt, and cinnamon; mix with oil and water. Rub herb mixture onto the meatiest side of each chicken piece. Lay pieces in a single layer, spiced side up, in a 10- by 15-inch pan. Bake in a 425 |degrees~ oven until meat at thigh is no longer pink (cut to test), about 30 minutes. Accompany chicken with yogurt and additional sumac to add to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 348 cal. (44 percent from fat); 41 g protein; 17 g fat (3.8 g sat.); 4.7 g carbo.; 396 mg sodium; 127 mg chol.

Sumac and Lentil Salad

1 package (12 oz., about 1 3/4 cups) lentils

4 cups regular-strength chicken broth

1 large (about 1-lb.) cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 large (about 8-oz.) red or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves (optional)

Dressing (recipe follows)

Ground sumac

Salt and pepper

Sort lentils to remove debris; rinse and drain. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring broth to boiling; add lentils. Cover; simmer until lentils are tender to bite, about 25 minutes. Drain; save broth for other uses. Let lentils cool. If cooking ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day.

Mix lentils, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro, and dressing. Serve with ground sumac, salt, and pepper to add to taste. Serves 8.

Per serving: 220 cal. (20 percent from fat); 14 g protein; 4.8 g fat (0.8 g sat.); 32 g carbo.; 37 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Dressing. Combine 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup minced red onion, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3 tablespoons grated orange peel, 3 tablespoons ground sumac, and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or salad oil.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Author:Bateson, Betsy Reynolds
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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