Rediscovering Sumac

Sumac, ground: Related to the pistachio, no wonder I love it!

Some of my favorite flavors come from the Middle East. I don’t think I’ve ever  had anything that didn’t taste good from the region!  Haven’t had these flavors in ages.

Ever had Za’atar? It’s a  delicious combination of flavors, used in various cuisines, each expressing a unique version, while maintaining a similar base of sumac, herbs, sesame seeds, and salt. Can make most ANYthing taste gourmet- delicious.

It all starts with the amazing little berry that is…sumac. Bursting with flavor, this little fruit contributes a flavor complexity to your dishes. I had all but forgotten about sumac since I started my simple way of eating — how sad!  It is tart, with a lemony flavor, and slightly salty-ish and used as a substitute for citrus and vinegar; but it has that something special that makes it unique.

Use it in place of lemon or tamarind. Also, note that a lot salt substitutes use lemon or citrus in their formulas.Try using it in your favorite home-prepared salt substitute or storebought herbal. It brightens up any mixture 🙂

Of course, on its own, sumac brings out lots of flavor in your dishes 🙂



Yes, there is a “but,” unfortunately. Sumac, without added salt is a real challenge to find. Why add salt to an already salty spice? A couple reasons — for preservation: Sumac loses potency very quickly; salt helps to preserve it in the form of a dried spice. Another reason is to keep it from clumping during the processing of the berries; it also extends storage life.

Okay, now why such a challenge? Well, for starters, the kind found in ME markets (like the package above)  are not labeled with an ingredients list. I would suggest that one should assume it contains salt.  It usually does. But those packages are very inexpensive — below a dollar, usually — so may be worth trying. To further complicate things — How to tell if an already-salty-tasting spice has salt added?! It’s very close to impossible, unless you taste truly unsalted at the same time or have a very keen taste for added salt, which can be tricky!

On the plus side, the sumac purchased from Middle Eastern sources are not over-the-top salty, and using it in your mixture would not add a lot of sodium to your finished dish.

However, the best way to know is to buy whole sumac berries and, yep, crush them yourself. Okay, easy enough…hm, not really: If ground sumac is hard to find, the whole berries are even harder. Still worth a look at the markets or specialty-foods sections, though.


Now for the good news,

Sumac-Berries_whole (12)

Aren’t sumac berries gorgeous!

After wasting what seemed like hours emailing and e-searching for salt-free, pure sumac — ground and/or berries — guess where I found it?

Sumac-Berries_whole (20)

MOUNTAIN ROSE HERBS, for goodness sakes! Well, DUH! I’m forever rambling about MRH — they are referred here a zillion times over, and yet, I failed to look there FIRST, like I usually do…heh. Silly me. 😉

Sumac-leafWell,  they have both the ground sumac and the whole berries, and, for good measure, the dried leaves — all salt-free. Never even knew about the leaves, but am looking forward to using them in lots experiments; soups are a no-brainer.

World Spices also has no-salt added ground sumac — confirmed via email inquiry — but it is not organic. Remember, too, that you just may find sumac tucked away in a gourmet-type, or specialty foods store or section; but know it is available, organic, without additives or preservatives via a reputable source: Mountain Rose Herbs.

As always, keeping within Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendations for added salt to the diet would be best; but you may want to buy one little package of sumac just to taste test (they are usually under $1), if you don’twant to haul off and buy a package of sumac berries 😉


with that difficulty resolved…

It is exceptional in beans — any bean dish! Test it on a portion of your favorite hoummus or other beany creation.

ful-mudammas (8)

Soupy Ful Madammas


Here is one of my favorite ways to use sumac — in za’atar, of course! You can add/tweak as you like, or according to how you prefer your za’atar; it varies from region to region as well as from taste buds to taste buds!


Za'atar_My_fini (11)



2 TB ground Sumac

1 TB Thyme, whole, dry leaves

1 TB Sesame Seeds, raw, hulled

Pulse to a med-course powder, the 1 TB sesame, making sure not to cream it. I used my small personal blender with the flat blade; a coffee grinder or similar appliance will work.

Add the thyme and sumac and pulse @ 5 or so times to combine and break up the thyme a bit, but not powder it.

Store in a glass jar with a tight lid. I use an old spice jar.

Variations: …are endless! a few common are to use some oregano, marjoram, or savory in place of OR in addition to the thyme.


Za’atar ingredients. Fresh or dried thyme can be used.


Pulse-grind sesame seeds to a meal, taking care not to butter it.
Pulse-grind sesame seeds to a meal, taking care not to butter it.


Combine thyme, sumac, and optional black pepper
Combine thyme, sumac, and optional black pepper




Add spices to the sesame meal; pulse to combine
Add spices to the sesame meal; pulse to combine



Enjoy! :^)
Enjoy! :^)

~ ** ~

Here is how I enjoyed za’atar recently: (Miss Olives? You don’t have to 😉 Click here)



Za’atar Olives:

1 garlic, clove (see note on prep)

2 tsp za’atar

2 t – 1 TB fresh lemon juice, or to taste

blackpepper, to taste, optional

12 unsalted raw olives


Pit olives or smash (see pic).

Toss well with lemon juice and galic (note: you can use slivers or slices, if you don’t want minced, raw garlic all over your olives); alternatively, maybe some lightly roasted or carmelized garlic would be nice.

Add the za’atar and toss lightly till thoroughly covering the olives.

Cover with a lid and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours to marinate.



If you want to leave the pit in, then give each olive a good whack with the side of a sturdy knife to break up the olive innards to release flavor as well as allow the flavors to permeate…like so:


then toss as per directions. Otherwise you can pit them all like so…




Toss in the ingredients; Marinate:

za'atar_olives_marinate (2)


And devour ;)!

These are utterly delicious; you feel deceptively decadent eating these morsels of olivicious goodness! These feel like they’ve been soaked in the best olive oil, yet not a drop of oil added — only the fruit’s own natural oils.

I’ve rambled about my love of these olives: Give a looksee ;^)

Interestingly, I found that, like most marinaded foods, the flavor improved with time, but they also mellowed. In other words, the potency (think the garlic punch) lessened, but the flavor developed. Either way they are delish. Something to note anyway, just in case you find you may have added too much garlic, it will mellow over the next day and longer. So don’t worry 🙂 You can use thicker cuts or slices of garlic, if you want to be able to remove them.

Also, za’atar mixture (stored)  has a bad habit of losing flavor quickly, so make in small amounts. For this olive recipe, it preserves quite well. I imagine it is the natural oils — I guess there is quite enough in the olives — which acts as the preservative, the same as covering with a load of oil would. The lemon helps too.


Here’s an idea:

garbanzo-beans_za'atar-spiceFul Za’atar

Toss heated home-cooked fava beans, garbanzo beans, a combo (or baby limas are a fantastic substitute in a pinch) in a little bit of their broth with lemon juice; za’atar; add garlic, if desired. Let sit at room temperature till ready to eat – flavor improves as it marinates. Serve cold or room temperature. Add chopped parsley, (add a bit of fresh thyme or oregano, optional; can add chopped tomatoes and/or onions, too) before serving.


“Toast” in your oven at 248-degrees or below (to avoid acrylamide formation) OR, my preference,  dehydrate cooked garbanzo beans, tossed in their broth, some lemon or lime, and the za’atar spices (and garlic if you like) for some healthy, crunchy no-fat, no-oil, no-salt needed, no-acrylamides Garbanzo Nuts!

Crunchy-Yum Garbanzo Nuts

Crunchy-Yum Garbanzo Nuts

OR…Add za’atar to any soup as a topping, or mix in (sort of like Italians add pesto to soups). It changes ordinary soups into something special.

~ The limits are defined by your imagination ;^) ~

~ *** ~

For dinner guests, I utililzed sumac: For example, lentil, and green chips; leafy salad; soup; fava hoummus; some bean “flatbread”; cucumber mint salad; Rose spiked sumac-ade (aka “sumac lemonade”); and Figs in Spiced Syrup. For me? Well, a giant ETL salad is enough; but I also like  simple side dishes, such as prepared mushrooms or olives, etc. ;); But, you can make most any style of eating you or your family likes nutrient-dense or ETL-ish with just a little bit of effort.

Here are a few pics of some preparations:

One popular way to enjoy sumac is to make a refreshing “lemonade-ish” drink. I haven’t had the fortune to taste this with fresh berries, which is purported to be the best; however, the dried is also employed. I like it well enough 🙂 It doesn’t taste like anything else, but if I had to give a likening, I’d say it would remind you of Agua de Jamaica, (Jamaica flower tea), aka, “Habiscus” tea/drink, and would make a wonderful substitute or change. It is has the traits of unsweetened cranberry juice — tart but fruity. I’ve added it to my GJGS‘s… too.

(simply crush or pulse-grind the berries…

add water and       soak in water…


… add sweetener, a few slices of lime, – ooh, a knob of ginger! —  and serve! Chunks of chopped fruit and you have a delicious ETL Sangria ;).

*Cucumber-Mint Salad with Orange


Lentil Chips



Za’atar spiced Olives with Lime and Mint



No-grain “Flatbread”


fig-dessert_my_fini (9)

Turkish Figs in Spiced “Syrup”


fig-dessert_my_fini (18)


This was a thoroughly ETL meal, simple, but with more than enough authenticity.

Make your nutrient-dense food GOOD. It can be done!

Pick up an inexpensive bag of sumac  and give it a try 🙂

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Just Like “Campbell’s…Canned Tomato Soup”…

Well, sorta like 😉


I had to make slight adjustments to my recipe to make it ETL. (Recipe below)

Here is what you need:



Celery Seeds (from a fresh jar!)


Carrot and Whole thyme, dry (from a fresh jar!)

Sorry, no pics 😀

Good Quality no-salt Tomato Paste


and some Nut Milk

A few more pics of the process, full recipe follows 😉

Carrots added to the celery seed, lemon, and water


Later, thyme added…


When it’s thyme, 🙂 add the paste…


Stir in thoroughly and bring to a simmer…


And some nut milk…


Here shows the blended mixture added to the soup…





“Below” 😉 This is quite easy, and quick to make!

~ *** ~

Here is my basic — “like canned tomato soup,” tomato soup to use in recipes calling for same:


*Have your ingredients ready*

Put into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer
1 TB lemon juice
1/4 C water

Add 3/8 tsp celery seeds, simmer couple minutes.

Add 3-ounces carrot, chunks (weight after trimming) and
3/4 C water. Bring to a boil.

Crumble in with your fingers 1/4 tsp dried, whole thyme. Mix. Cover.       Lower heat and
Simmer 10 minutes.
Add pure, unsalted, 3-ounces tomato paste*
Mix thoroughly. Boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and
Simmer 10-15 minutes or till carrots are just done.

Spoon out the carrots and add to blender with 1/4 C nut milk and blend till completely smooth.
Pour and scrape all you can back into pan.
Add 1/2 C water to blender to swish around and clean out the remnants of mixture.
Add to soup.
Mix thoroughly, and
On medium-low heat, bring back to just a simmer and cook, till thoroughly heated, stirring, for a couple of minutes.
Remove from heat. Partially cover. Let sit several minutes before serving.
Variation: Use all nut milk (3/4 C  in place of the 1/4 C nutmilk + 1/2 C water) for a canned “Cream of tomato soup”; etc

Notes: I like to let it sit several minutes before serving, if using right away.
*The picture above is of Bionaturae Tomato Paste– if you use it, use 4-ounces; it seems to be less concentrated than the canned varieties. There are very good canned pastes; even Trader Joe’s Organic makes a good soup. Organic is always preferable. Either way, use the best quality tomato paste you can find, that you know tastes good. This recipe has few ingredients, so it matters! Use fresh celery seed, as well. I have found old containers of spices from 10 years ago, haha.


Also, you’ll only use about half a can tomato paste, since most come in 6- or 7-ounces:  Leftover tomato paste freezes well; so you don’t have to throw out the rest of it. You can freeze in an ice cube tray, if that’s easier.

Notes on Salt: If you decide to salt, add per Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendations. Also, add after cooking and after it has settled and has sat for a bit, but still warm.

It really doesn’t require much, if you do choose  to use it. I found it to need only 3/8  tsp of salt added to the entire recipe to satisfy those who wanted it — so that’s good news 😀

If you’d like, a pinch of white pepper, AFTER soup is made, is fine; but taste a small portion first: It may effect a flavor you don’t want.

I used a clean-tasting nut milk for this: Use a cashew or almond milk, unsweetened, for example; don’t use a strong tasting seed or nut or something that may give an off-taste.

Of course, you can always add to this, next time you want to make a bit fancier soup by adding various spices, herb; etc., to taste.

Stores well, and even tastes better the following day.

Makes 16-ounces:


Please leave comments on your results, if you try this recipe, thanks!


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Kale Chips…


**See addendum regarding baking these at the bottom of this post**

Believe it or not, this is NOT a complete entry!! This is me, rushed, lol. Lots more to come, but, here we go…

Okay, I had a looooooooooooong(er!!!) post with several recipes to post for these; however, I think I’ll just post this one for today, and the others in a few days. I just moved this week, plus the holidays are here already; so I’ve been super busy. SO, let’s get to it:

I was inspiredby these kale chips online. What a shock to see so wholesome a packaged product! Unfortunately, salty and too fatty, and they use agave nectar (which is just as bad as any other sugar) and WAY overpriced. C’mon, kale does NOT cost all that much! And, hey, how hard can these be??!

There are some recipes for kale chips online, but they are — yep — LOADED with fat, some, including oil, and all include salt; none of which anyone needs, right? Right :D.

Mine are better, in my opinion 😉 These are healthiest chips you’ll EVER eat!

Recipes I’ve seen call for up to 1 C of nut or seed butters, and some add oil on top of that (!!) for a small volume of greens So, I’ve cut it down well enough to still get great flavor and texture. You will get lotsa chips from this too; whereas recipes calling for loads of dressing use less greens. You can always make these richer or less so, all to your taste. I’ve made very low fat and the higher fat — truth is they are both yummy, but the richer ones, have better flavor. It’s all going to depend on your taste, how much you want to make, how much of these you will eat (watch it: these can revive “snacking” probs, if that’s one of your demons! You’ve been warned), and for what purpose…These are an awesome way to get in those greens! Especially if you don’t like green smoothies (pshaw!) or can’t get in enough, or just want some greens variety. Great with soups! I eat these with my ETL salads 🙂
Okay, lots of pics to show you and the first recipe! (For ease of reading the recipe sans the pics, scroll down to the near bottom: It’s written out there)

Thought I’d post the curry first, since I make this most often:

You need:

A dehydrator and blender

My Curry Dressing

9- 12  -ounces Dino-Kale (weight after de-stemming)

Additional Nutritional Yeast, for sprinkling atop, Optional



9- or 12-ounces Dinosaur Kale, Fresh, Washed, De-stemmed, torn into bite-sized pieces. Curly kale is fine; but Dino, preferred:


1/2 C Sesame Seeds OR SunflowerSeeds, (measure before soaking, if you do so; you can use more, if you wish to make them richer)




3/4 – 1 tsp good-tasting, good-quality, fresh Curry Powder — your favorite, or your own homemade (I recommend Penzey’s Maharajah Curry powdersee “BELOW“)


1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds, whole (I sometimes add up to 1 tsp)


1 tsp Coriander Seeds, whole, (or 1/2 tsp ground powder)


8 ounces Tomato, fresh (about 2 smallish (canned, okay)


3 TB Apple Cider Vinegar


1/2 – 1  Red Bell Pepper (about 5-ounces; OR use just the tomato; or just the bells — but both is best)


3 -4 TB Nutritional Yeast ( I like 4)


1 tsp Garlic powder* (Yes, that’s only a half teaspoon in the pic — double it!)


2 tsp Onion Powder*


Black Pepper, to taste


Additional Nutritional Yeast, OR  “Sprinkle” (see Notes) Optional, for sprinkling on leaves right after tossing in dressing to stick (not after dehydrated!)


Okey Dokey?  Now…


Add ingredients to the blender



Give it a good whiz Yes, it is watching you!:




Pour over leaves…


…and toss (pic is of a different sauce; I don’t have one of the curry, but this is how it’s done):


You want them thickly coated:




Place on dehydrator trays:


Choose your temp (See “Notes” on temperature)


…and let them go!! Make sure they are THOROUGHLY dry. The time they take to be done will depend on the temperature you choose and how many trays you put in at a time. I usually do 4 trays, spread, cranked to the highest temp — takes about 2 – 2 1/2 hours. So it will vary.



Enjoy!! sm row smiles

*You can try this without garlic and onion powders, if you don’t consume them; It’s still pretty good


Below” 😉


I like Penzey’s Maharajah curry powder for this (if for nothing else; I’m not a fan of prepared powders. I make my own, and even then I rarely use it.) This one is not hot. If you like spicy, then add some 😀

This is the key to the Penzey’s Maharajah — Saffron!


This is what makes their Maharajah:  The subtlety is *perfect*; if you know saffron, it is — well, to me — a bit difficult to use. It’s tricky — you can easily use too much or too little; and it doesn’t always taste good in things you think it will! Anyway, it is incredible on these chips. The Penzey’s has *just* the right amount.

So make sure the curry powder you choose is one you like: the recipe depends quite a bit on it, though it will come out good anyway 😉 OR add some saffron to yours! It’s outstanding for these chips!

Not the best pic, but Here are some with a topping; makes them look a bit nicer too:


NOTES:  You can use my cheesy sprinkle to top, if you wish; it works quite well on with any dressing on kale chips, actually.

You can use your nut/seed/or combo of choice + nutritional yeast. a commercial product uses walnuts + nutritional yeast (but they add salt), for example, which is very good. I like to add a bit of coconut to my nut-seed sprinkles; but here, I used just pignolis…


BUT, finely minced…


by hand: It’s best, with very delicate, oily nuts, to hand mince, or you will end up with butter :). Quite easy and quick.

Regarding, the temp — I crank my dehydrator to the highest temp. They may or may not be “RAW.” However, I’m not a “raw foodist,” so that’s of no consequence to me. IF, however, you are a raw food purist, you can absolutely make these: Simply lower the temp to whatever you believe best, and let them go. I’ve done it and they come out great. I just let them go overnight. Delish either way 😀

Here is the recipe without pics for ease of reading 😀


Curry Dressing

9- 12  -ounces Dino-Kale (weight after de-stemming)

Additional Nutritional Yeast, for sprinkling atop, Optional


1/2 C Sesame Seeds OR sunflower seeds, (measure before soaking)

3/4 – 1 tsp good-tasting, good-quality Curry Powder — your favorite (I recommend Penzey’s Maharajah Curry powder-see “Below”, or your homemade)

1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds, whole (I sometimes add up to 1 tsp)

1 tsp Coriander Seeds, whole, (or 1/2 tsp ground powder)

8 ounces Tomato, fresh (about 2 smallish (canned, okay)

3 TB Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 – 1 Red Bell Pepper (about 5-ounces (or use just the tomato; or just the bells — but both is best)

3 -4 TB Nutritional Yeast ( I like 4)

1 tsp Garlic powder*
2 tsp Onion Powder

Black Pepper, to taste

Additional Nutritional Yeast, Optional

Blend up all except the black pepper, till smooth and creamy

Stir in freshly-ground optional black pepper to taste.

Toss thoroughly with prepared leafy pieces to coat.

Sprinkle with optional additional nutritional yeast.

Place on trays.

Dehydrate thoroughly till nice and crispy-crunchy

*You can try this without these, if you don’t consume onions and garlic. It’s still pretty good

An important consideration: The dressing is not going to taste ideal on its own; it must stand up to those greens! So try it first – maybe test a few leaves by drying; then, see: If the dressing isn’t up to your taste, then adjust the seasoning. The dressings for green leafy chips must be much more concentrated in flavor; so you must concentrate the seasoning. Just keep that in mind 😉 they will taste different once dried and ready to eat. some of the dressings taste too vinegary, for example, but, again, it’s not going to be so after they’re dehydrated; the vinegar tempers the harshness in the fiber of green leafies. Soon, like me, you’ll be whipping these out without a recipe!!


I have made DElish ones using a good hummus style, sans the beans and using only the sesame/tahini; I’ve not used one with beans, but that might be a good experiment. I have LOADS to share about these chips! But, for now, Go wild with it; it’s SUPER easy!

More to come: Here are some I’ve had success with that will be posted soon!

Avocado, based



Nacho cheesy

Until then OR if you don’t like curry-flavors, here is a GENERAL guide:

This is the one I started with when I first began:

1 tsp WET BROWN MUSTARD, Westbrae,
HERBS,SPICES, etc. OPTIONAL( can’t go wrong with cumin! It’s great with the flavor of greens)

Another quick example:

1/2 C soaked unhulled (brown) sesame seeds (measure before soaking)
3/4 – 1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Coriander powder
2-4 TB nuttritional yeast
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
1/2-3/4 C Water
2-4 TB Nutritional Yeast

Lemon Zest, few scrapes, optional

Variation examples (omit water first and add later if needed):
Use bell pepper
Use tomato, fresh (or sundried)

As you can see LOADS of things you can do! You can try a favorite dressing; HOWEVER…I *strongly* advise you to concentrate your seasonings. In other words, make your dressing stronger (by doubling you seasoning (not volume), for example) than you would for simply a salad.
But do try mine 🙂 Try a few leaves if you’re hesitant; then adjust to taste. This way you can see how to do it TO YOUR liking 😀

If you share this with anyone, please link to my blog as the source. THANKS! Oh, and please leave a comment if you try these…well, if you like them that is 😉

***To give credit where credit is due, the idea of kale chips, is actually not new! It just sort of is because the raw foodies came up with it for dehydrating. Joanne Stepaniak actually made these years ago, I do recall; however, she sprayed them with oil and used just salt and pepper, I think — certainly not a sauce. They were also baked at 350-degrees (actually, I think higher, but I’ll say 350- to be on the conservative side), which is not very healthful for greens. Dry, high heat = loss of nutrients and acrylamides! May as well just eat regular chips!

From Disease Proof:

Many whole-grain cold cereals are so processed and overly cooked that they have lost most of their nutritional value. Because these foods were dry-baked to make them crisp, they are also generally high in acrylamides and other toxic compounds. Soaking, sprouting, or cooking grains in water, instead of eating pre-cooked breakfast cereals, is a much healthier and more nutritious way to eat them.

On the other hand, you can try baking these in a more healthful manner at a low temperature in your oven. Go the lowest you can and watch *carefully,* perhaps moving them around often. A forum member over at Dr. mentioned she uses her oven as a dehydrator by attaching a lightbulb in there! Very clever 🙂 . You can do the same. Some people keep their temp at the lowest and leave the door slightly ajar to let air circulate and keep the temp low (some even put small fans in); however, this may be a great way to waste energy!

So, a dehydrator is best, but you can still give baking these a try 🙂 . Please let me know if you do! I’d love to know the results


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