Along the Grapevine


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Sumac Pepper and the Best Popcorn Ever

Dried sumac

I have posted many recipes calling for sumac. I just love its distinctive lemony flavour and the ease with which it can be processed and stored. Lemons figure on my shopping lists a lot less frequently since I have been using sumac regularly, but am still trying to find more ways to use it.

I have made popcorn with sumac before, but this recipe  from Zester Daily caught my attention because it is for a spice mixture I had not tried, a mixture which is useful for a lot more than just popcorn. I have also written about making za’atar, but there is always room for more variety in my spice cabinet.

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This recipe also gives me a chance to show off my own home-grown popcorn. It is called Black Dakota, and while any popping corn is good, this one is so pretty before and after popping that I jump at the chance to talk about it and maybe encourage others to grow this organic, non-GMO, easy-to-grow corn. The kernels are a deep purple, and when popped it is very white with a striking black centre.

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I have copied the recipe as written on Zester Daily.

Sumac Pepper


2 Tbsp ground sumac

2 Tbsp ground black pepper

1 Tbsp salt (optional)

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp granulated garlic

1/2 tsp granulated onion

Mix all the ingredients together and store in a cool place.

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It doesn’t matter what kind of popping corn you use. It is by far the best flavoured popped corn I have ever had. Just drizzle a little melted butter or olive oil over the corn and sprinkle on the sumac pepper. Likewise it is excellent in a marinade, added to vegetable or meat dishes, on sandwiches, pastas, salads etc. Have fun with it!


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Crab Apple, Walnut and Sumac Biscotti

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My Iris Garden

Winter has hit us hard this year in SE Ontario, and I couldn’t be happier. The greatest thing about winter besides the spectacular scenery it affords us is the beautiful contrast to all those other seasons – seasons we appreciate so much more because we know all that colour is not a permanent state. Winter is also a perfect time for the gardener or forager to rest, regroup, and plan for the next season’s labour. I still have a lot of reading to do before spring comes, but I have succeeded in working with some of my preserved harvests, and decided where I should focus my attention once spring arrives. Therefore, I feel this winter has been a fairly productive period.

This recipe is a result of some of my ‘thinking’ time during this snowy and bitterly cold season. I devised a recipe which uses three of my foraged products: crab apples, sumac powder, and my new favourite, black walnuts. I expected not to get it right the first time, but the result is exactly what I was hoping for. Not too sweet, a good balance of fruit and nut flavour, and soft enough I don’t have to worry about cracking a tooth.

I love biscotti, sweet or savoury. They are the true ‘biscuit’  or ‘twice cooked”. The variations are endless, including not only nuts and fruits, but also herbs and seeds. If you don’t have these exact ingredients on hand, just combine what you have with, say, one fruit, one nut and one flavouring (vanilla, lemon zest, almond, chocolate, etc).

Crab Apple, Walnut and Sumac Biscotti

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 heaping Tbsp sumac powder

3/4 cup dried crab apples

1/4 cup black walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil

3 eggs

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Whisk the oil and eggs together, and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly, kneading the dough till it sticks together. Divide the dough in two parts and form into two loaves, 7″x3″. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.

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Biscotti loaves before first baking

Bake in a 300 degree F oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for about 15 minutes. Slice each loaf into twelve slices. Arrange again on the parchment, and return to the oven, lowered to 275 F, for 12 minutes.

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Sumac Rice Pudding

100_0831When in New York last week, I had to visit the famous Rice to Riches in Lower Manhattan. Their website is under construction, but you can find a list of their rice pudding flavours for delivery, and will give you an idea of how this little shop gives this lowly dessert a whole new makeover. Something like an ice cream parlour, and just as busy, they serve puddings of every imaginable flavour with catchy names, like Almond Shmalmond, Take me to Tiramisu, and Fluent in French Toast. And toppings!

When I first heard about it last year, I decided to try my own hand at making rice puddings of an unconventional sort. As a base I used 1 cup arborio rice, 2 cups water, and 1 cup coconut milk. To that I added flavourings, such as rose or orange blossom water, or lavender. But vanilla, nuts, fruit or whatever would work just as well. I combined all these ingredients, added a little sweetener (I usually used coconut sugar).

But this is a blog about wild foods, so I can’t try and recreate even their Secret Life of Pumpkin for this space. However, I can share with you my recipe for sumac rice pudding, which by the way cannot be found at this NYC restaurant. I’m sure there are many other wild edibles which would make interesting puddings, but one at a time.

I used sumac molasses for this, so there was no need to add any sugar. However, you could probably use powder or sumac tea and add sugar as necessary.

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1 cup short-grained rice

1 cup water

1 cup sumac molasses

1 tin coconut milk

toasted nuts (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook covered, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 1/2 hour, or just until the rice is thoroughly cooked. The pudding will set as it cools, so don’t worry about it being too saucy. And feel free to be creative with your own toppings, although I personally prefer it just with a few toasted nuts and some sumac powder.