Along the Grapevine


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It is -20 degrees C today and dropping, so I make no apologies for not foraging today. I didn’t even make it outside. What I am doing is figuring out what to do with my foraged bounty and which ingredients are worth gathering and which just don’t work that well, or do not survive storage.

One of my favourite and most useful harvests this year has been the sumac, especially in powdered form. I have noticed that it is one of those increasingly popular spices, although still under-used. And as for local sumac, there seems to be none used whatsoever, even though the red sumac we gather here is similar to the product bought in specialty spice shops. If you are not sure how to identify it, watch this clip.  Even those who are familiar with it sometimes need to know how they can use it. I usually just say ‘on anything at all’, but no doubt it would be more useful to give some actual recipes.

I have already commented on this spice in my original post, but certain points bear repeating.

  • make sure you have identified the plant correctly
  • remove the berries without any other bits of the plants and clean them well
  • make sure you are not allergic to it

If you don’t have any of your own, you can buy it in shops. The store-bought is not always organic, and sometimes salt is added to give it bulk, so the home-made is preferable, but not essential. It adds a fruity, lemony flavour to vegetables, dressings, fish, meat, in short, just about anything. I even added it my shortbread with excellent results. Today, taking refuge from the cold weather and icy roads, I made two vegetable recipes;  grilled portobello mushrooms and Brussels sprouts from the last remaining fresh sprouts from my garden.

The portobello mushrooms are inspired by a recipe I found on line from Allrecipes, and it comes with a video. I made a few changes, mostly the sumac.

Grilled Portobello MushroomsDSC00132

3 portobello mushrooms

1/4 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 shallot (or small onion)

1 Tbsp garlic

1 Tbsp sumac powder

1 tsp saltDSC00133

Clean the mushrooms, pat dry and remove the stems. Mix the oil, vinegar, onion garlic and salt in a bowl and pour over the turned up side of the mushrooms. Leave them to marinate for about an hour. Grill them on a lightly oiled grill gill side up until cooked through, about 10 minutes. You will see the sauce bubbling on top of the mushrooms when they are ready.

Brussels Sprouts with Sumac

DSC00127

Brussels sprouts

olive oil (enough to coat)

sumac powder

salt to taste

Coat the sprouts with oil and salt. They can be roasted in the oven, but I sauteed them in a pan with the oil and salt and added the sumac just towards the end. If they are getting too browned but still too undercooked for your taste, add just a little water to barely cover the base of the pan, and continue to cook covered for a couple of minutes. Do not overcook!  DSC00131 This is a good method when the sprouts are not all the same size, even after halving the larger ones. I put the bigger pieces in first, then added the very small ones later.

This barely scratches the surface of things you can do with sumac powder, but as I work my way through my bag of red powder, I will post more of my experiments. Until then, I would be interested to know if anyone else has been using this spice in ways we have not yet thought of.

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