Sumac-Dusted French Fries with Roasted Garlic Dip

Sumac French fries.jpg
Photo by Dayvid LeMmon
Easy to make. Just as easy to enjoy.
Spice blends can be magical. With just the right amount of this and that, a well-crafted blend is greater than the sum of its parts. However, with up to 20 spices working in tandem, the individual pieces inevitably get lost and are impossible to distinguish. A blend definitely has its time and place -- curries, rubs, soups, and seasonings -- but the way a spice shines all on its own can be equally beautiful.

The easiest way to get a feel for a single spice is to use it alone on a simple ingredient that can hold its own: vegetables, quality cuts of meat, or breads. With that in mind, I set my sights on sumac, a popular spice in Middle Eastern, Persian, and some Mediterranean cuisine that's little-known in the US. It's a star ingredient in the spice and herb blend za'atar, which is widely used as a condiment as well as a seasoning for dough, meat, vegetables, and hummus.

Sumac tree with berries
This spice starts as reddish-purple berries from sumac plants. The small berries, which grow in big clusters, are dried and ground into a bright red spice. In fact, the word "sumac" traces its etymology way back to the word for "red" in Syriac, a language that was first prominent in the second century BCE. Since sumac can't be found in run-of-the-mill grocery stores, and of course it's best to get the freshest, highest quality spices to ensure optimal flavor, I headed to Penzey's at Tempe Marketplace to pick up a jar. At $3.75 for a small jar (1.2 oz.), you'll get enough to experiment with quite a few dishes. Once you get a taste, you'll be putting it on everything, maybe even mixing up an original blend of za'atar to keep handy on the kitchen table.

Location Info


Penzey's Spices

10810 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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