Thursday, January 22, 2009

what the heck is sumac?

As you may have noticed from my other posts, I really like to experience and experiment with different ethnic cuisines, especially Mediterranean and Greek.  There are so many great spices and flavors inherent in these cuisines that can take dishes to a completely different level without a lot of added salt and fat. 

180px-SumacFruitWhen I first saw this recipe from Jamie Oliver, along with a spice I had never heard of before I had to try it!   Sumac is a dried middle eastern spice that comes from a shrub with red berries and is used in recipes to impart a bright, lemony flavor.  It probably isn’t in your local grocery store, and it seemed like I was on a wild rat race to find the darn thing!  I finally found it at an Indian Market near UNLV.  Boy does it smell flavorful and bright, be careful not to take in too much! 100_2236

Because this dish is perfect stuffed into a nice warm pita, I had to go to Amena Bakery to get the best pita in Vegas!!!  Actually all their food is awesome and the owners are really great.  It is sad to say that they may be going out of business.  You have to go visit if you are near Decatur and O’Bannon in the Trader Joe’s shopping center.  You won’t be disappointed.


Lamb is another one of my loves.  Many people are afraid of it, but is so delicious and has such a better flavor than beef, but not gamey at all.  There is also a great butcher that we found on Horizon Ridge that has all kinds of great things, including wine and spices.  Check out Branded Meats for all your needs.

On with the recipe . . .


Lamb Kofta Pita



  • 1 pound ground lean shoulder or neck fillet of lamb
  • 2 heaping tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 level teaspoon ground chili pepper (in the original he calls for 1tbsp!)
  • 1 1/2 level tablespoons ground cumin
  • 4 level tablespoons sumac, if you can find any, or 1 lemon, zest finely grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good handful shelled pistachio nuts
  • A few handfuls mixed salad leaves, such as romaine, endive and arugula, washed, spun dry and shredded and any other veggies on hand
  • A small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked 
  • 1 lemon 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large flatbreads or pita from Amena Bakery
  • 4 heaping tablespoons non-fat plain greek yogurt


Place most of the thyme, chili, cumin and sumac (reserving a little of each for sprinkling over later), a little salt and pepper and all the pistachios into a food processor. Put the lid on and keep pulsing until mixed.  In a large bowl, combine well with ground lamb.

Divide the meat into 4 equal pieces and get yourself 4 skewers. With damp hands, push and shape the meat around and along each skewer. Press little indents in the meat with your fingers as you go - this will give it a better texture when cooked  (Alternatively, you can also shape into small patties, which I did since I don’t have any skewers).

In a bowl, mix the salad leaves and mint and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil if desired.

Grill the kebabs until nicely golden on all sides (I used a grill pan). Meanwhile, warm the flatbreads/pita for 30 seconds on the griddle pan or under the broiler, then divide between plates and top/stuff each with some dressed salad leaves or any other veggies on hand.

When your kebabs are cooked, slip them off their skewers onto the flatbreads/in pita - you can leave them whole or break them up. Sprinkle with the rest of the sumac, cumin, chili and fresh thyme, and a little salt and pepper.  Drizzle with some of the yogurt before serving.  So much great flavor!  Happy mouth :)



kristen :) said...

The picture here isn't with Amena bakery pita because Chris hadn't brought them home yet and I was starving!

Anonymous said...

I just started eating lamb a couple years ago. There is a mediterrean place near me that does fab kabobs and I always get their mixed grill plate which comes with 1 beef, 1 chicken, 1 kafta, and 1 lamb kabob along with 2 sides. It's such a good meal! I will have to give sumac a try...perhaps using the whole recipe you have here? :) Happy blogging and cooking! Diana