Have you ever gone down the spice aisle and looked at something and wondered what in the world it is used for? I know I have. In fact, I do that here. People will ask if we have an esoteric spice or seasoning. Often, we do. However, I am completely perplexed at how it is used.
For example, sumac. Ground sumac is a relative of poison sumac. However, the culinary variety is not poisonous. It is easy to tell the difference. Culinary sumac berries red; poison sumac berries are white.
Sumac tastes like lemons, but is not as sour. It is used in a great deal of Middle Eastern cooking. It may also be used as a seasoning in hummus, in meat rubs, and as a general seasoning when you want a lemony burst. Unless you are using it in a rub, sprinkle it on the dish right before serving. I think I'll try it the next time I sauté squash or steam asparagus.
Another slightly less common ingredient is lavender. I do love to use lavender. And no, it does not taste like perfume - unless you use too much. This is an ingredient that you need a light hand with. And, it is one of those ingredients people might not be able to pin down. However, if it is not there, the dish will be lacking in ..... something. I have used it in shortbread, brownies, and an incredible lavender blueberry banana bread. It is also wonderful with pork and poultry. On a summer day, lavender lemonade is very refreshing.
Lavender syrup is used in lattes and in an English Fog - an Earl Grey version of a latte.
I am planning to make lavender macaroon for an event in a couple of weeks. The taste is subtle and slightly astringent. The astringency offsets the sugar in the buttercream, so you have a not as sweet dessert. Adding a lemon buttercream filling also helps provide a sweet yet tart dessert.
Brown mustard seeds are also on my list of interesting ingredients. I’ve used the yellow ones numerous times, especially in pickling and when I get industrious and make my own mustard. The brown are hotter and stronger than their yellow counterparts. The next time I make pickles, I think I’ll try a combination of both.
So, here are three new ingredients to try. All of them would be wonderful in summer dishes. Let me know what you think when you try them!