Have you ever heard of sumac? If you live in the American South, you may think of it as a weed. But hopefully after making this recipe, you will now think of it as a delicious weed.
Sumac is a plant that produces a reddish fruit called a “drupe.” A drupe is a category of fruit that also includes stone fruit such as peaches and plums. The drupe of certain varieties of sumac plant are dried and ground into a powder, which is used throughout the Middle East to give food an awesomely sour, bright, lemony flavor.
But it’s not quite lemon - it really is in a league of its own. It’s an incredibly versatile spice that can be sprinkled on top of hummus, added to a salad dressing for an extra punch of sourness, or used in meat marinades.
Here, it’s used to marinate red onions for a wonderful chickpea salad that gets better in the fridge overnight! What could be better?
And there’s another fun new ingredient in this recipe to try, if you haven’t already. Pomegranate molasses is not technically molasses, but is pomegranate juice reduced to a thick syrup, the consistency of molasses. It’s sweet, but has that back of the jaw bite that a sip of good pomegranate juice will give you. It works beautifully with the sourness of sumac, and is a great way to add a touch of sweetness to salad dressings, marinades, or even a summer cocktail.
Also below is a method of cooking chickpeas that I learned from a Nancy Silverton recipe a while ago. It takes a long time, perhaps longer than you are willing to spend on the humble chickpea. But trust me, with this way of cooking them, chickpeas become something more a meaty, creamy, beautifully-flavored bean that can be the base for soups, salads, or anything you can imagine. Give it a shot. It might change the way you think about chickpeas.
- 1 ½ cups dried chickpeas
- 1 tsp. + 1 Tbs. Vanns Kosher Salt, divided
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut in half crosswise
- 1 stalk celery, trimmed and cut into thirds crosswise
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife and peeled
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- Place the chickpeas and 1 tsp. kosher salt in a medium bowl and cover with water. Stir to dissolve the salt. Soak overnight.
- Drain and rinse the soaked chickpeas. Place them in a medium-sized pot along with the carrot, celery, garlic, 1 Tbs. kosher salt, and olive oil. Cover the chickpeas with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface, then lower the heat to low and simmer ever so gently until the chickpeas are tender and creamy. This can take anywhere from two to three hours depending on the age of your chickpeas.
- When the chickpeas are done, remove the vegetables and garlic, then scoop out the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and spread on a baking sheet to cool. Don’t toss that cooking liquid! It makes a wonderful, savory base for any kind of bean or vegetable soup. If you don’t have a way to use it in the near future, throw it in the freezer. Labeled of course, or you’ll be wondering what it is in a few weeks.
(If you really just don’t have the time for this whole process, though it really will produce the most magnificent chickpeas of your life, you can use two cans of cooked chickpeas instead, drained and well-rinsed.)
- While chickpeas cool, slice the onion. Cut both ends off and slice in half vertically, from pole to pole. Then, slice each half very thinly from pole to pole, leaving you with nice, gently curved shreds. This is a nice way to incorporate raw onions into salads — this shape mixes in more easily than the big C-shape you get when cutting the onion crosswise.
- Put the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 15 minutes. This will remove the sharpest of the raw onion flavor, and will keep the entire salad from stinking of raw onions the next day!
- Drain the onions and place in a large bowl. Add the sumac, aleppo pepper, and kosher salt. Massage the spices and salt into the onions for a few minutes with your hands, until everything is evenly coated and the onions are starting to break down in texture a little bit. Drain off any liquid that collects in the bottom of the bowl.
- Add the chickpeas and chopped parsley to the onions, and toss until thoroughly combined. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and pomegranate molasses and pour over the salad, tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed.
- Refrigerate the salad until ready to serve - its flavors will continue to develop, so it will actually taste best the next day!
- Taste for seasoning again before serving - the chill of the fridge will sometimes dull the flavors of food, so a little salt and pepper can help to brighten things back up again.
Serves 6-8 as a side. Adapted from The Kitchn.