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Friday, March 2, 2012

Get to know Sumac

If you don’t know sumac, you should.  It’s this amazing spice used a lot in the middle eastern foods that has a lemony vinegary flavor. Yes, it is related to poison Sumac, which you are probably familiar with if you had a brother like I did that was continuously coated in a layer of pink calamine lotion growing up because he liked to play in bushes for some reason. But, the edible spice is of another genus and completely safe.  If you are a hummus fan, maybe you’ve had it in your hummus, or maybe you’ve had zaatar with sumac in it..or possibly in your shawarma if you frequent the middle eastern food trucks in DC.

Well, it’s time you start eating sumac because it’s actually good for you and adds incredible flavor.  Apparently it used to be used in the medieval times to treat a ton of illnesses.   There is some data that shows it has antimicrobial properties and can be used to treat hypoglycemia.  You can buy sumac at any middle eastern food store or online or maybe even your grocery store….but definitely not mine here in Kenya. I brought my sumac from home ;-)
So, let me introduce you to the simplest most delicious easy to make chicken dish EVER :
Sumac Chicken with Onions and Arabic bread recipe.  Its real name is - Mussakhan.  I got the recipe from here.  It’s a website called Taste of Beirut where this lady that grew up in Lebanon shows you how to cook some awesome stuff.  I tweaked her recipe a bit to fit with what I had and to be extra healthy and a lot easier than the one she made.
1 yellow onion cut into thin rings
2-3 chicken breasts cut into small chunks. The real recipe asked for boneless wings..eh.
1 cup Chicken stock
Pita bread  - if you have Arabic paper bread (markook or lavash) use that. I could not get pita even, I had to use Naan (Indian flat bread)
1 tbsp sumac
olive oil
salt pepper cinnamon, all spice
Red Wine – to drink!
Pre-heat oven.
First, sprinkle the sumac all over your sliced onions and set aside
Once you chop up your chicken breasts, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, cinnamon and all spice
Then brown your chicken in a pan with some olive oil.  You don’t need to cook it all the way through – Just get it a bit golden on the outside.
Oh, this is where I began drinking my wine ;-)
Okay, then remove the chicken from the pan, add a bit of olive oil and start cooking up them onions! You want them to get sort of clear..not brown.
Okay, now, while your onions are cooking, pour some chicken stock into a bowl ( I just mixed a bouillon cube with some hot water. I’m sure you have fancier options than that). 
Get out a glass baking dish and spray it down with some cooking spray.  Open up your pita and lay it down in the dish.  You can use 2 pieces..just do what you want. You won’t mess it up. Then brush or coat the bread with a layer of chicken stock.
Once the onions are done, lay half of them down on top of your bread. Then add your chicken on top. Next put the rest of the onions on top of the chicken. Take another piece of opened up pita and try to sort of lay it on top and tuck it under the bottom piece to make a little cage for the chicken and onions. Paint the top piece of bread with plenty of chicken stock as you do this.
If you are using naan like I had to..it sort of looks like this:
  Nairobi-20120302-01942 Nairobi-20120302-01943 

If you are using lavash do it like this – put a couple of layers down first and then wrap it around your stuffing. This is the real deal if you have the right bread.
lavash correct
Then I wrapped mine all up in foil since I couldn’t really create a little bread pocket with my thick stiff naan.  I put it in the oven for about 30-35 minutes at like um, I don’t know..Hot. Maybe normal baking hot. Like 350. My oven has a dial with single digit numbers – I used 7 hot. ;-))
Well the finished product looks a lot like the pre-finished product – the photo doesn't’ really show how steamy and juicy this thing ended up.
Nairobi-20120302-01945 Nairobi-20120302-01947
It was soooooooo good. It was like lemony, tangy, oniony, juicy, the bread and chicken was delish. And it was so easy and needs like 4 ingredients.
Enjoy the sumac!


So..what do you have to say about all this?