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Zahtar, sumac and smoked red paprika

Monica Nov 17, 2013 06:43 PM

On my recent visit to a Persian market in NY, I bought these 3 spices but I have no idea how they are used...so what should I cook with them? Any good recipes?

  1. juliejulez Nov 17, 2013 06:44 PM

    OMG you need to make this chicken.... sumac is only used as a garnish at the end, but the whole thing is so good: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

    1 Reply
    1. re: juliejulez
      Monica Nov 17, 2013 07:06 PM

      That sounds really good.

      I also wonder if I can just put it into any tagine recipe as well.

    2. coll Nov 17, 2013 06:44 PM

      Great on oven roasted vegetables. I always use all three, plus some cumin and cinnamon.

      1. ipsedixit Nov 17, 2013 07:10 PM

        Za'atar is great on oatmeal.

        Sumac is great as a "finishing salt" on tropical fruits like mangoes, papaya, persimmons, etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ipsedixit
          Monica Nov 17, 2013 07:15 PM

          It's kind of interesting to read that sumac, a Persian spice, is good on tropical fruits....(persimmon I get).
          so sumac is more like a finishing spice..not a spice you cook with...

        2. Ttrockwood Nov 17, 2013 08:31 PM

          The za'atar is great with most middle eastern dishes- hummus, a cous-cous/veg/chickpea/tomato sauce tagine, etc. I've purchased fresh pita with za'atar before and it was so simple yet really amazing.

          The smoked red paprika makes me think of spanish food, a simple roasted potatoes with olive oil and the paprika would be great and colorful, also pairs well with eggs, shellfish and sausages.

          1. l
            LisaN Nov 17, 2013 08:43 PM

            I love sumac on fried eggs or on hummus. Za'atar is great on warm pita, heat pita, brush with olive oil and top with the spice mix.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LisaN
              DGresh Nov 18, 2013 03:35 AM

              My kids love pita bread that way

            2. Atomic76 Nov 17, 2013 09:12 PM

              Smoked Paprika is fantastic, but I will warn you that it's pretty strong - particular the smokey smell/taste of it.

              I love it on home fries, or as part of a dry rub for chicken or pork - it adds a ton of smokey flavor, and it's much different than what you would get from something like Liquid Smoke.

              The only thing I wouldn't use it on, would be where paprika is used as a garnish for color, such as on potato salad. The flavor might be a bit too overpowering in that instance.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Atomic76
                Harters Nov 18, 2013 02:00 AM

                Although it's what you want for the Spanish tapas dish of patatas bravas.

              2. melpy Nov 18, 2013 02:50 AM

                Take a look at Ana Sortun's cookbook Spice.

                Persians use a lot of sumac. Try on jujeh kabobs or on rice. Salad shirazi is also excellent. Recipes easily found online.

                1. Athena Nov 18, 2013 03:52 AM

                  Lots of Middle Eastern recipes use the first two, not sure about smoked paprika. I used the first two in several recipes I made from Yotam Ottlolenghi's books this summer - Google him and his recipes will come up.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Athena
                    erica Nov 18, 2013 04:01 AM

                    Smoked paprika, also known as Pimenton, marries well in any egg, potato, bean dish.

                    I use sumac often on salads of tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers.

                    I've bought Za-a-tar several times but rarely use it. Look at the Ottolenghi cookbooks for tips.

                    1. re: erica
                      sweetpotater Nov 22, 2013 03:08 PM

                      I was going to say to google Ottolenghi; he uses zaatar and sumac often to great effect.

                  2. l
                    limoen Nov 18, 2013 04:08 AM

                    I really love using all three, and they are regulars for me. Nigella's za'atar chicken and za'atar flatbreads are good (you can find the chicken recipe through Google). For the flatbreads, mix a TBS of za'atar and one of olive oil, smear on pitta breads (store-bought) and grill or bake till golden. Another Nigella recipe I like using sumac is her fattoush (http://hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress....) - she has two versions.

                    I make a flavoured butter for baked sweet potatoes that is really good with them: mix softened butter, a teaspoon of sweet paprika, half a teaspoon cumin, half/quarter teaspoon smoked paprika (depending on how smoky you like it) and lime juice. All the flavours really complement the sweet flesh of the potatoes.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: limoen
                      pine time Nov 18, 2013 07:32 AM

                      I used some za'atar and olive oil on homemade naan this weekend. Delicious.

                    2. jpr54_1 Nov 18, 2013 04:58 AM

                      There are several good Mediterranean/Israeli/Arabic cookbooks which use all three.

                      1. jpr54_1 Nov 18, 2013 05:09 AM

                        these cookbooks have several recipes using the above

                        The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shifa
                        A MediterraneanFeast by Clifford A. Wright
                        The New Foodof Life by Najmieh Batmanglij

                        1. weezieduzzit Nov 18, 2013 07:36 AM

                          Za 'atar is wonderful on lamb.

                          1. h
                            HillJ Nov 18, 2013 07:38 AM

                            All three are wonderful as coating for a goat cheese log.
                            Added to your basic bread dough recipe
                            Endless uses in dips, salad dressings
                            Added to vinegar
                            Wonderful sprinkled over deviled eggs

                            1. Monica Nov 18, 2013 08:25 AM


                              will be making this soon.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Monica
                                HillJ Nov 18, 2013 08:26 AM

                                I really enjoy meals like that! So simple too.

                              2. m
                                medrite Nov 18, 2013 08:36 AM

                                Combine 1/2 teaspoon of that smoked paprika with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Peel and cube a butternut squash and toss it with the spice mixture plus 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Yum!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: medrite
                                  Monica Nov 18, 2013 08:40 AM

                                  sounds delicious!

                                  The reason why I bought smoked paprika is actually to make Hungarian goulash which my husband likes from the time he sent teaching in Budapest years ago. I wanted to get Hungarian smoked paprika but i couldn't find that.

                                2. JungMann Nov 18, 2013 08:47 AM

                                  Which Persian market did you visit? The little storefront on 28th and 5th?

                                  Za'atar is typically used as a condiment. One would sprinkle it on bread with olive oil, or atop thick lashings of yogurt or stuffed into a phyllo pastry hot with gooey cheese. The spice mixture varies around the Middle East, but it is generally herbaceous and slightly bracing from the combination of thyme and sumac, which makes it seem very bright when paired with rich oil or dairy. I've seen people start to use za'atar as an all-purpose spice mix on healthy foods like baked chicken or carrots, but that doesn't taste quite right to me.

                                  Sumac is a dried and ground berry that is sour with a slightly funky aftertaste. It can be used in lieu of lemon where you don't want additional liquid. Like the taste of lemon and garlic with potatoes? Try crispy sumac and garlic fries. My favorite traditional uses for sumac are in musakhan, onion salad and fattoush.

                                  Smoked paprika is very versatile, though be forewarned, a little goes a long way. You get the taste of wood smoke, yes, but to me it tastes simultaneously meaty, bacony, savory. I use smoked paprika in barbecue rubs and paella but I also add a pinch to add oomph to vegan vegetables or sneak them into deviled eggs. It is quite good in many recipes.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: JungMann
                                    Monica Nov 18, 2013 08:51 AM

                                    Thanks for the tip.
                                    I went to the one in Great Neck, long island. ..i think it's called shop delight. Love that store!
                                    I didn't realize Za'atar is a spice mixture with sumac in it already.

                                    1. re: Monica
                                      Caitlin McGrath Nov 19, 2013 12:52 PM

                                      Some za'atar has sumac, some doesn't. They'll all have thyme, sesame seeds, and salt, and it's easy to tell if you've got one with sumac, because you'll be able to see the reddish tint mixed in.

                                      This spinach salad with dates and almonds that incorporates sumac might sound unlikely, but is a totally inspired combination: http://www.lottieanddoof.com/2012/10/...

                                  2. h
                                    HillJ Nov 18, 2013 08:57 AM

                                    I buy a great many spices and dried herbs through this company and the recipe file on their website offers some tested, really unique recipes.


                                    and check this spice pairing out:

                                    1. Monica Nov 18, 2013 10:50 AM

                                      I also saw cardamom seeds that were smallish white in color.
                                      How do I use that? like i would with nutmeg balls?

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Monica
                                        pine time Nov 19, 2013 07:55 AM

                                        Cardamom is a strong flavor (I love it, though). Crush the little pod and toss the shells. Some people don't like biting into the small seeds, so I usually put them in cheesecloth to flavor rice or biryanis. If I'm using it for baked goods, I'll crush the seeds a bit more.

                                        1. re: Monica
                                          momnivore Nov 20, 2013 10:06 AM

                                          We use the cardamom in our tea (typically earl gray or Darjeeling) but its also great in cookies and pastries. We also make ice cream with rose water and cardamom.

                                          1. re: momnivore
                                            Monica Nov 20, 2013 10:10 AM

                                            I bought cardamom from my last trip from France but stupid me, I forgot to label it and now I don't know which is the cardamom out of all the spices I bought...

                                            ice cream with rose water and cardamom sounds so exotic and good!

                                            1. re: Monica
                                              momnivore Nov 20, 2013 10:14 AM

                                              If it smells like chai it's cardamom :)

                                              1. re: momnivore
                                                Monica Nov 20, 2013 10:15 AM

                                                great tip. I will go smell it tonight..hopefully I can find it. thanks!

                                          2. re: Monica
                                            saregama Nov 22, 2013 01:34 PM

                                            Mmm. My favorite spice. If you bought seeds, you'll want to crush them (mortar/pestle or spice grinder) first to get the full dose of wonderful. If you have the pods, you can either open them to get to the seeds, grind the whole thing to a powder in a spice grinder, or partially crush in a mortar/pestle - depending on what you're using it for.

                                            Cardamom is lovely in both sweet & savory applications, like many of those described already (chai, rice, as part of the whole spice roster for Indian cooking, ice cream - with or without a bit of rosewater or orange blossom water). It is also a nice change from cinnamon or nutmeg in many baked goods - delicious, but harder to tell.

                                          3. kimeats Nov 19, 2013 11:03 AM

                                            I put za'atar and sumac on basically everything. Smoked paprika is really versatile too.
                                            Try putting some sumac in your hummus or sprinkling it on top at the end. gives a nice lemony spice.

                                            Make some flatbread and cover with a paste made of Za'atar and olive oil. Bake as usual.

                                            1. m
                                              momnivore Nov 20, 2013 10:03 AM

                                              Sumac is traditionally used to season rice and kabobs - beef, chicken or lamb - typcially after cooking. Iranians don't really use the other 2 spices even though you can find then in Persian grocers. I second the recommendation for the Food of Life cookbook.

                                              1. fldhkybnva Nov 20, 2013 10:05 AM

                                                I love love smoked paprika. A little sprinkle on anything is great but particularly dishes with cumin, chili powder, etc or even on eggs.

                                                1. e
                                                  ErnieD Nov 22, 2013 01:41 PM

                                                  This isn't really a recipe, but I love air-popped (I have one of those microwave popper dealies) popcorn drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled generously with za'atar.

                                                  1. s
                                                    saregama Nov 22, 2013 02:05 PM

                                                    Had a lovely dish recently of roast beets topped with thick yogurt and sprinkled with za'atar. Had previously had it largely as a bread topping or dip mixed with olive oil.

                                                    Love sumac over fatoush or with kababs or over rice in any persian/middle eastern/mediterranean preparation. Have been meaning to make a chicken with onions and sumac recipe I came across a while ago... have to find it now!

                                                    Smoked paprika in.over all yummy things Spanish or spanish-inspired... or most recently over octopus and chickpeas in olive oil.

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