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An alternative to sumac?

Little Cupcake Feb 28, 2010 04:13 PM

I want to make Food & Wine's recipe for Palestinian Spinach pies. The filling contains spinach, lemon, onion, pepper & sumac. What would be a good alternative to sumac in this recipe?

  1. amyzan Feb 28, 2010 04:24 PM

    There really isn't a substitute for sumac. but if you can't find it locally, try looking for zataar, which will contain sumac, and sounds like it'd work in your recipe. If you can't get either, you're looking to add a fruity/sour flavor to your dish. You could use amchoor, which isn't near as fruity, but is sour. You could use lemon juice or something along the lines of tamarind, but honestly, I think tamarind would overwhelm the other ingredients. You could also use a bit of vinegar (and only a bit, because sumac isn't that sour, and is balanced by some sweetness.)

    If you want to mail order sumac, Penzey's is a good source, reliable and fresh, and fairly reasonably priced. http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey... I encourage you to get the real thing, if possible. It's also great on lamajhun, which are sort of a flat bread pizza, and something we make regularly in summer for a quick, tasty lunch with store bought lavash.

    2 Replies
    1. re: amyzan
      LauraGrace Mar 1, 2010 10:14 AM

      I can get a great big bag of za'atar for less than $5 at my local Meijer stores -- it's Ziyad brand and relatively easy to find at regular grocery.

      1. re: LauraGrace
        amyzan Mar 1, 2010 11:44 AM

        Not in Kansas! No Meijer here, and the nearest middle eastern market is Al Habashi house in City Market, in KC, MO, about 45 minutes' drive in benevolent traffic. Little Cupcake doesn't say where he/she lives, but there are many areas of the US where sumac couldn't be found outside a specialty market. We are lucky to have a Penzey's in Overland Park, about 20 minutes drive.

    2. goodhealthgourmet Feb 28, 2010 04:24 PM

      i know the recipe already contains lemon, but unfortunately the best option is grated lemon zest. since sumac has a tart, somewhat lemony flavor, it's really the closest you'll get in terms of substitution.

      4 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
        AndrewK512 Feb 28, 2010 06:08 PM

        I agree with lemon zest.
        However, the smell of sumac oddly reminds me of the powder on ketchup chips, if you're feeling crazy you could add some of that. XD

        1. re: AndrewK512
          amyzan Feb 28, 2010 08:06 PM

          Andrew, what on earth are "ketchup chips?" Powder on them? I am so curious...

          1. re: amyzan
            AndrewK512 Feb 28, 2010 09:20 PM

            Sorry, I forgot that they are primarily a Canadian-only flavor of chips -- very tasty!

            1. re: AndrewK512
              amyzan Mar 1, 2010 11:45 AM

              Very interesting! Never seen them, but it's a good concept since so many people like ketchup with fries. Barbecue chips are pretty popular here.

      2. luckyfatima Feb 28, 2010 07:45 PM

        I would just omit the sumac. The lemon will provide enough flavor and tartness.

        1. p
          Pookipichu Mar 1, 2010 11:59 AM

          Why substitute? Why not just order online if you don't live near a spice market? Amazon carries it and since you have an internet connection, I'm assuming you probably have postal service in your area as well.

          1. s
            shallots Mar 1, 2010 12:49 PM

            Call your county extension agent and ask if Sumac grows in your county and if so, where.
            I'd expect that you could find it as a shrubby weed along stream beds and in minor flood plains.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shallots
              amyzan Mar 2, 2010 10:07 PM

              In March here, it's going to have been eaten long ago by birds and foraging animals...

            2. j
              jenmarya Mar 19, 2012 01:36 AM

              I can't vouch for this sub. working in that recipe, but if you are making a salad dressing and need sumac, a decent substitution is another bitter purple berry that comes from Japan: Umeboshi. If you happen to make bento boxes for your kids, maybe you have some of this on hand.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jenmarya
                baltimore_foodie Jun 3, 2013 09:58 AM

                Isn't umeboshi a pickled plum?

                1. re: baltimore_foodie
                  chefj Jun 3, 2013 10:06 AM

                  Yes it is Plum. Not a Berry

              2. BamiaWruz Jun 6, 2013 04:35 AM

                Use lemon juice, and a bit of pom molasses, the flavour will be good in the spinach pies. Raw onion too of course, no garlic.

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