I love when my travels take me through Inman Square. It’s a really eclectic neighborhood and a tasty place to visit, so I tend to linger there, paying visits to my favorite sandwich shop and the wonderful ice cream parlor just a bit further down the street. I fill my belly, I people-watch, I let the day slow down and I savor it like something delicious.

When I’ve had my fill of sandwiches and ginger-molasses (or chocolate orange…or burnt caramel…or almond khulfee) ice cream, I make my way over to the spice shop adjacent to the ice cream parlor. Never mind Inman Square or even the greater Boston area, this shop is one of my favorite places on Earth. When you walk in the door, you’re hit by the intoxicating, almost hypnotic smells of spices from every corner of the world.  Every available inch of the store is stocked with oils, vinegars, condiments, herbs, teas, tinctures, spices, and every type of grain, flour, and bean you can imagine. I never seem to make it out of there without bags full of hard-to-find pantry staples, like bitter orange, zaatar, harissa, baharat, smoked salt, and lots of different dried mushrooms and chiles. I also never leave without buying something new to add to my spice rack.

Being a huge fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, I love zaatar, which is a widely used spice blend. However, one of the components of zaatar – ground sumac berries – always seemed like an unnecessary purchase because it’s already in the zaatar, mellowed by thyme and sesame. But, during my last visit, I decided to buy it anyway and I’m so glad I did. On its own, it’s tart and bright, with a subtle herbal quality that complements pretty much everything.

I’ve been playing around with it for a few weeks and it’s been a delicious experience. I already have a few solid, sumac-spiced main dishes in my recipe arsenal, all of which I’ll share with you eventually, but since the Superbowl is coming up, I thought I’d make you a sumac snack!

Sumac Hummus with Pita Chips

  • 2 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 small lemons (preferably meyer), zested and juiced
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons tahini, to taste (I prefer less tahini, but feel free to adjust it to your taste)
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil, fresh parsley, sumac, black pepper for garnish

Pour the chickpeas into the food processor and pulse to mash. Add the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water, then allow it to mix for about one minute to combine thoroughly. Add the tahini and sumac, then, with the food processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Season with salt. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley, a little more sumac, and a few grinds of black pepper.

This hummus pairs well with veggies, olives, and…

Pita Chips

  • 4 whole pitas, cut into triangles
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon zaatar, if you’ve got it/want it (a 1/2 teaspoon each of dried thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, and cumin will work, too)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss thoroughly to coat. Spread the pita triangles out on a large baking sheet, making sure they’re evenly spaced to allow for even toasting.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve with hummus or your favorite dip.