Monday, April 21, 2008

Sumac. Not just for poison anymore.

Never a dull day in our lives. Even before we ran with a bunch like the Navy we were the sort to have many commitments and too little time in which to accommodate them, but only the best intentions. In the course of two days we have managed to convert our gardens to subsistence planting (only grow it if it yields something edible), make the decision to only buy Cafe du Monde coffee from here on out because we are so deeply concerned about the continuing situation in New Orleans, buy an enormous new piece of furniture, cook three great meals and two just okay, stub three toes, wonder what on earth will solve persistent teething-related fussiness, and get ready to go to Kansas tomorrow. Because you see, Kansas is where Josh began and we are headed there to see his long lost brother. It was a long journey to get this guy back from Japan. He is worth it, though.

He has winged his way back from a world of adventures akin to my husband's and my own: Knew a life overseas, among another people. And he truly lived it. Not one opportunity passed him by. When it comes to the Eastern hemisphere he has seen it. We are deeply and profoundly proud of him. I will be the first to say of my silent but strong brother-in-law that I would not have guessed this would have been his path: So far away. So very alien to the life he knew. But he takes the journey on the earth we share seriously. He means to be there to experience this exubererant adventure with as many of us as he can find.

At the holidays when he is gone and as with my Husband, there is a palpable heart-hurt for the children their strong and steeled family has sent overseas to help another; to do the bidding of a free and just nation. I understand it. But they get it, in a way that only a mother, brother, or sister can. I am going to Kansas tomorrow and I cannot wait to see the relief in their faces. I cannot wait to hug an entire family at once: Whole. Safe. And on American soil.

Maybe you are traveling the world. Or, maybe you can find a bit of ground sumac and wish it would transport you to some enchanting Middle Eastern place. I found a bit recently at Old Florida Spice Traders in St. Augustine. I had never worked with Sumac before. I wish I had found it sooner. It is warm, sweet, and mysteriously new and foreign. It's one of those things you find when you have been out seeing the world. I like to think Nick would approve.

Za'atar Spice Blend and Za'atar Pita Spread
Makes a little less than 1 cup

3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
2 teaspoon ground sumac
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup quality olive oil (if making the pita bread spread)
6 small pita's

In a spice grinder or a processor's small bowl attachment, pulse the first 6 ingredients above to a point just before completely ground: leaving a few sesame seeds still whole. Half of this could go into a spice storage container and be used to season hummus, chicken, beef, or lamb (in the near future to prevent loss of flavor).

If making pita with za'atar: Put three tablespoons of za'atar spice mix above in a small bowl. Stirring constantly, incorporate the olive oil in a steady stream. Spread one side of each pita with the olive oil mixture and toast until golden edges appear on the pitas.

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