When we tested the Spice-Rubbed & Sear-Roasted Salmon with Honey-Glazed Fennel, a chorus of surprise echoed throughout the kitchen when we revealed one of the ingredients. “Sumac! Isn’t that poisonous?”
Though it is a relative of the poisonous type, the variety used in cooking is perfectly safe, and it adds an unusual flavor to the dish. It’s used throughout the Middle East, often as a stand-in for lemon juice. In addition to fish, sumac’s tart, astringent flavor marries well with chicken, beef, and even fruit (think apple pie).
In the United States, you’re most likely to find the dried burgundy-colored berries already ground into a powder, though occasionally they’re sold whole. Look for sumac in Middle Eastern markets, or online at Adrianascaravan.com.