When people ask, “What’s you favorite ingredient to cook with?”
One minute, I’ll be into fresh bay leaves or mangoes, and then suddenly our relationship is completely over (it’s not you, it’s me!). Then, I’ll dabble around in the next thing. Like a child who outgrows a toy, I tend to play favorites and only revisit when the mood strikes.
As of late, there’s been a constant in my cooking repertoire that I’m excited to tell you about: sumac.
Burnt crimson in color, sumac is a Middle Eastern spice with a distinct earthy aroma.
Initially, I was intimidated by its dark and bold appearance. I assumed it would be too dominating (like cumin) if used with a heavy hand.
But contrary to my first impression, sumac is surprisingly light and fresh in flavor.
It tastes like lemon.
And I’m not talking about lemon zest; it’s tart like lemon juice.
When my stash of sumac ran out, I panicked.
I was so accustomed to using sumac on everything (chicken, salmon and grilled flatbreads) finding a good-quality replacement was challenging. Sumac is not easy to find.
So, I sent Teri a message.
My friend, a fellow foodie columnist and fantastic cook, also shares a deep love for sumac. And apparently, she frequents the best spice supplier in Chicago.
Three days later, a package arrived.
Teri sent me the most beautiful sumac! She also threw in garlic powder, paprika and Aleppo pepper (crushed red pepper flakes). What a generous and unexpected surprise.
Inspired by my delivery, I made this…
Usually dressed with lemon and olive oil, roasted cauliflower makes an appearance in our house at least once a week.
For this version, ‘lemony’ sumac replaces the citrus. It’s delicious. And as a compliment, I added fresh dill and a few pomegranate seeds for that WOW burst of acidity.
The flavor is festive, warm, nutty, tart, herby… and the colors remind me of Christmas. You could easily serve this at any holiday gathering with a nice roast or even a traditional fish dinner. It only requires 6 ingredients and takes minutes to prep.
A few quick things to note:
If you can’t find sumac- roast the cauliflower with a dusting of sweet, smoked paprika. Add fresh lemon juice right before serving.
Prepping pomegranate- slice it in half lengthwise and gently tap the back of the shell with a wooden spoon. The seeds will fall right out- do this over a bowl so you don’t get juice all over the place, including on yourself. It stains. Or, you can buy the seeds in little containers at the grocery store.
Dealing with dill- because dill comes in gigantic bunches (that only go bad in the fridge), use the rest to make dill butter. You don’t need exact proportions- just chop up the herbs and mix with softened butter to your liking.
Keep it in the freezer for a rainy day…
So, I’m curious…
What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with these days? Ever try sumac?
- To get ahead, break the cauliflower into florets and store in a Zip loc bag until ready to roast. I usually do this 1 or 2 days ahead of time. Do the same for the pomegranate seeds.
- You will only need 1 generous handful of pomegranate seeds for this recipe. Save the rest for smoothies or snacks.
- You’ll notice I don’t give an exact measurement for the garlic powder listed below. The older it gets, the stronger it tastes. Use your judgement.
- 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
- drizzle of olive oil
- 2 heaped tbsp sumac*
- dash of garlic powder, to taste
- coarse salt & freshly ground pepper
- ¾- 1 cup pomegranate seeds
- ¼ cup roughly chopped dill, divided
- Preheat your oven to 425 F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add the cauliflower to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil until well coated. Add the sumac, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toss well to combine.
- Spread the cauliflower evenly onto the baking sheets.
- Roast for about 25-30 minutes until golden and tender (check at the 20 minute mark to see what's going on).
- Remove the trays from the oven. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer cauliflower to a serving platter and toss gently with half of the chopped dill.
- To serve, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and the remaining dill over the top.
- Enjoy warm or at room temperature.