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*July 2009 COTM* SPICE: Sumac, Citrus, and Fennel Seed

Our Chowhound July 2009 Cookbook of the Month is Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun.

Please post your full-length recipe reviews here for dishes from Chapter Three: Sumac, Citrus, and Fennel Seed, page 70 to 101. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. Let us know if you would like to make the recipe again, and if you would change anything in the future, too. Photos welcome!

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.


Thanks for participating and enjoy!

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  1. Fish Spice, p. 75

    Sortun recommends this as a seasoning on cooked seafood. It has just four ingredients - toasted lime or orange peel, sumac, aleppo, and ground fennel.

    She gives a couple of suggestions for drying the citrus peel, but I used the "Proof" function on the oven with the door ajar for a couple of hours, and then turned the heat off, closed the door, and left it overnight. It seemed to work well. I ground the orange peel first in the spice grinder, then added the fennel seeds, and then ground everything together. I only had one large orange, so halved the fennel and sumac, but used the full amount of aleppo.

    By itself, I thought this had too much fennel, but once sprinkled on slow-roasted halibut (at 275, a technique from "A New Way to Cook"), I could taste the citrus more. It's a good addition to the pantry - she says you can store it in the freezer - and a nice flavor booster for mild fish. I served the halibut sprinkled with Fish Spice along with Lemon Aioli, p. 50, and fresh corn sauteed with butter, red Padron peppers, basil, and Penzey's Fox Point seasoning.

     
     
     
    3 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      Thank you so much for reporting on this. I thought it was an interesting spice blend, but I live with the fennel-challenged so I won't be making this unless I have fish alone one night.

      1. re: smtucker

        So that's what my husband is - fennel-challenged! He smelled it and said "you're not putting that on MY fish". You can definitely make some and just put it on your portion. She says to sprinkle it on fish, squid, scallops or shrimp after cooking. I'm making the Scallop Pizza with Leeks and Fennel Seed this weekend, and hoping I can sneak it past him. Though when I was sauteing the leeks and fennel this afternoon, he said "what that's funny smell" ; )

        1. re: Rubee

          I remember hating fennel, thinking it smelled too much like licorice. How wrong I was! One of my all-time favorite salads is now fresh fennel and orange slices.

    2. Scallop Pizza with Leeks and Fennel Seed, p. 92

      Another recipe to add to my top 5 favorites from the book so far. I loved the flavors in this.

      The recipe calls for the Manaeesh Dough (p 92). I had a bit of trouble as I followed her directions for using a stand mixer, but it stayed sticky and never pulled away from the sides. She says kneading for 7-8 minutes, I stopped at 12 minutes. It calls for a cool rise, however, and did seem to double in volume after a couple of hours in the refrigerator. I used half for this recipe, and half the next day for the Flatbread with Za'atar. I really need to get a pizza stone as I would have liked the bottom to crisp up as much as the edges did.

      For the topping, leeks are sauteed in olive oil with fennel seed, and combined with a reduced white wine and heavy cream mixture, mustard, scallions, and garlic. This is spread in a thin layer on the pizza, and then topped with large sea scallops cut in half. We polished this off in no time. I didn't serve the pizza with the lemon-dressed arugula as she recommends since E doesn't like arugula, but next time I would, as I think it would cut the richness of this delicious pizza nicely. I paired with a bottle of chardonnay from Italy as she suggests. A lovely dinner.

      I made the full recipe of the creamy leek mixture, but used only half for one pizza. The rest was used for breakfast and lunch this week - it was great stirred into scrambled eggs, and tossed with pasta.

       
       
      7 Replies
      1. re: Rubee

        Your dinner looks nice, but I'm really not sure about scallops on pizza. It's a flavour combination which is not that appealing to me, as I think scallops need to be the star of the show. Were they not overwhelmed by the dough?

        1. re: greedygirl

          No, as the pizza is thin, though I might add even more scallops, now that I think about it - good point. She mentions that it was very popular when she cooked at Casablanca before Oleana. What I especially enjoyed was the creaminess and sweetness of the leeks with the scallop (also, was able to get nice sea scallops on sale at $9.99/lb from $17.99 lb). But then I'm from New England where I grew up eating scallops every which way - breaded and fried, wrapped in bacon, creamy chowder, even in seafood alfredo sauce over pasta! ; )

          My favorite scallops, however, are the seasonal Nantucket Bay scallops, and those I would eat prepared as simply as possible. Miss those out here in Arizona.

        2. re: Rubee

          What's the current list of Top Five Stars?

          1. re: foxy fairy

            Pao Pao cocktail, fried squid with avocado hummus, and fideo with lemon aioli, and two others I've made before - the sweet potato bisteeya and the whipped feta dip. Although I also really liked her version of muhammara I made this week (haven't posted yet), and the mussels with leeks, aleppo, and smoked paprika.

            This week, hoping to make the Crispy Lemon Chicken with Za'atar and the Caramelized Onion Tart with Poppy Seeds, Bacon, and Dates!

            1. re: Rubee

              Rubee. Muhammara is one of my favorite tastes. I always make it for parties. I just got the book from the library and must look that up. Up to now, I've always used my idol, Paula Wolfert's recipe.

              My stars! That Caramelized Onion Tart with bacon and dates sounds like it would kill me and I'd be eager to die!

              1. re: oakjoan

                I practically fell over when I first tasted the Muhammara I made with Sortun's recipe. I changed a few things in the recipe (used onions instead of scallions). I haven't been able to reproduce how good that first batch was, though!

                1. re: oakjoan

                  Wolfert's has been my go-to for muhammara too! Just posted on Sortun's version.

          2. Chicken Lamejun with Roasted Peaches, Pistachio, and Sumac (p. 94) I made a half recipe of this for lunch yesterday, served with a salad. This recipe will be a keeper for us, really enjoyed it. We had fantastic peaches, so that helps, but the combo of spices in the chicken paste is delicious. We decided this would be good with the red pepper variation when peaches are out of season. I didn't have sumac, so used extra za'atar to make up the difference. The za'atar from Penzey's is already quite heavy on the sumac, so I think we made a decent approximation. I used lavash from Whole Foods and was pleased with how easy the recipe is to make with prepared bread. I'd like to try it with the recipe for manaeesh dough, though. Pizza stone helps a lot in crisping up the entire lavash.

            5 Replies
            1. re: amyzan

              I want to try this but I don't have a food processor. You think it would work in a blender, or with ground chicken?

              1. re: yamalam

                Yeah, you'd just have to chop the onions, scallions, and red pepper finely before adding them to ground chicken breast. You might want to use a mixer, so the texture would be moe like what a food processor produces, unless you have really strong forearms! The blender wouldn't work, by my guess, as the mixture just isn't liquid enough for one.

              2. re: amyzan

                Chicken Lamejun with Roasted Peaches, Pistachio, and Sumac (p. 94)

                We really liked this too, although I don't have a pizza stone and would have liked it more if the lavash was nice and crispy. Also, trying to eat healthier, I used lavash made with whole wheat flour, oat bran, and flax, and that might be another reason. Another change is I couldn't find Greek yogurt at any of the major grocery stores in the area, so I just garnished with a bit of sour cream and chopped pistachios. This was still really good eaten rolled up like a wrap. I loved the combination of the spiced chicken mixture (chicken breast, scallions, onions, red bell pepper, sumac, za'atar, salt, egg white) with the sweet roasted peaches.

                I'm going to try to freeze the rest of the chicken mixture so I can make this again with good lavash and yogurt from a Middle Eastern shop I plan on visiting next weekend.

                 
                1. re: Rubee

                  Chicken Lamejun with Roasted Peaches, Pistachio, and Sumac (p. 94)

                  Made this again this weekend. Still don't have a pizza stone, but used good lavash from a local shop. Also, I realized I made it wrong last time - for some reason, I thought the cream and pistachios were to be mixed in with the yogurt. This time I made it the correct way and mixed the cream and ground pistachios in the chicken mixture.

                  I made it this weekend as part of a "Spice" dinner. I cut it into squares, topping each piece with a slice of roasted peach, and served with a bowl of yogurt. Delicious, even better than last time. In fact, one of our guests' favorites of all the dishes I made.

                   
              3. Serrano Ham with Blood Orange and Fennel Salad (pg. 85)

                I hesitate to post this report because I made such a bastardized version. I lacked blood oranges, olives and serrano ham (although I did sub in proscuitto instead).

                But, I had to use up CSA fennel (one of my least favorite veggies) and I am happy to say, I found a way that I like to eat fennel.

                So, the recipe has you do the following and my omissions...

                Cut the fennel into small slivers. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.

                Toss the oranges, fennel seeds, parsley and olives together. (I skipped this step for obvious reasons. I did toss the parsley in with the fennel, olive oil mixture).

                Place two slices of ham on the plate, spoon the orange mixture into the ham and spread it around. Or, you can roll the ham around the orange mixture. What I did was to shred the proscuitto in with the fennel and I just ate it like that.

                This way so tasty. The proscuitto just kind of folds in with the fennel giving it a great contrast between flavors and textures. The fennel had a nice sharp/sweet/anisey flavor that complemented the proscuitto beautifully.

                1. Sarikopites: Greek Pastries with Tuna, Fennel, and Kasseri Cheese (p. 83)

                  Oh my these are good! I've never ever used fennel. I chopped fresh fennel bulb, onion, celery, garlic, tuna, white wine. All of this gets sauteed in phases--vegetables should be soft, tuna done. Then add parsley, anchovies, cheese, and chopped green olives.
                  I decided to use a splash of fish sauce instead of 1 tablespoon of chopped anchovies. The fish sauce is a fishy liquid, ( I have it for Pad Thai), it adds I think the sort of flavor that anchovies would add.
                  The Kasseri cheese was not found--Internet said Provolone would do for a substitute, so I used Provolone.
                  Everything is now chopped fine and cooked and ready to roll up into phyllo sheets, buttered and olive oiled. Bake, enjoy. There is no licorice flavor--I suppose tuna/cheese on an addictive savory background describes these appetizers.

                   
                  5 Replies
                  1. re: blue room

                    Oh, you just put that on my list! I'm having friends over next weekend for a "Spice" dinner, so now may make that too. I love phyllo, and that looks great, and sounds delicious!

                    1. re: Rubee

                      An all "Spice" party? You're already guaranteed a huge success, I think. The more I read/use the book (which scared me a little at first) the more I like it . Let the sarikopites brown a little more than I did--you know how pretty phyllo is when golden. I took them out slightly pale because I was worried the inside would dry out--but needn't have worried, the olive oil and butter keep everything nice.

                      1. re: blue room

                        Thanks for the tip, much appreciated! I love anything wrapped in phyllo - glad you reported on this dish.

                    2. re: blue room

                      blue room: Do you use canned or fresh tuna?

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        oakjoan, for the 1st time in my life, I bought raw tuna! My grocery just happened to feature for 8.99 / lb. albacore as the "Catch of the Week". The recipe calls for 12 ounces, though, so 2 cans would be the right amount. I probably overcooked the tuna--trying to get it to the look and texture of canned! (Not a sushi fan.)