There are some flavours and aromas that magically create a feeling of comfort for me. Among them are Mint, Za’atar, Tahini, Orange or Rose Blossom Water and Sumac. Mostly flavours of the middle east, clearly due to my origins, upbringing and mama’s cooking.
When I was growing up hummus, tahini and za’atar were certainly not common household ingredients in a North American kitchen and most people didn’t even know what they were, yet we ate them daily at home. Our fridge was never without hummus, our pantry never without tahini and not a weekend went by that mama didn’t make or hop over to the Lebanese bakery to pick up some fresh mana’eesh bi za’atar, a flat bread/pizza with an olive oil and za’atar paste, something I promise to make for you once I perfect my sourdough base.
Today these same ingredients are all the buzz all over the internet and social media. You know something has really made it big on the food scene when famous chefs and foodie websites start writing about it (I’m looking at you Food52, The Kitchn, and Martha Stewart et al.)
Sumac is one of those spices that seems to be gaining popularity lately. It’s one of the primary ingredients in za’atar spice and a household staple in any middle eastern kitchen. It has a tangy, lemony flavour, but it’s a lot less tart than lemon. It’s wonderful rubbed on vegetables prior to roasting them (especially carrots and cauliflower), and sprinkled on foods before serving them, like hummus, labneh or fatoush, a typical Lebanese bread salad which I’m planning to bring you a recipe for this summer.
Sumac is part of the Poison Ivy family, BUT the sumac we eat, Staghorn Sumac, is NOT poisonous at all. Sumac berries are dry roasted, ground and sifted to produce sumac spice. Not only is it a delicious spice that can be used in many ways to liven up your meal, but it also offers some pretty important health benefits like antioxidant protection against free radicals, and has been shown to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It’s also a great way to add zing without the acidic properties of lemon if you happen to have an aversion. Go ahead, sprinkle it on.
Carrots need no introduction from me but let me just remind you of their magnificence. They are an excellent source of fiber as well as vitamin A or beta carotene, biotin, and vitamin K among many other vitamins and minerals. They are also loaded with antioxidants properties. To quote The World’s Healthiest Foods:
“Different varieties of carrots contain differing amounts of these antioxidant phytonutrients. Red and purple carrots, for example, are best known for the rich anthocyanin content. Oranges are particularly outstanding in terms of beta-carotene, which accounts for 65% of their total carotenoid content. In yellow carrots, 50% of the total carotenoids come from lutein. You’re going to receive outstanding antioxidant benefits from each of these carrot varieties!”
I’ve used all the colours in this recipe, but if you can’t find them all, even just one variety will do, the colour of the spread will change as a result, but it will taste just as amazing.
Cannellini Beans, the creamy white beans used in this recipe are a staple in my diet and my favourite bean to use in soups, spreads and tarts, both savoury and sweet. They retain their shape and texture nicely in a soup, but also lend themselves well to being pureed. They are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber and protein. They are also an excellent source of folate, iron, manganese and magnesium among other vitamins and minerals.
Here, sumac is rubbed on tricoloured heirloom carrots, which are then roasted with garlic and blended with cannellini/white beans, Herbamare, fine sea salt, paprika, some more sumac and a hint of lemon juice to create this deliciously creamy tangy spread, perfect for sandwiches, crackers or crudités.
Sumac Roasted Carrot and Cannellini Bean Spread
This spread is perfect for a picnic, on your favourite sanwich or served with crackers and crudités. It’s a wonderful appetizer, makes a great addition to the buffet table at a party and a wonderful picnic companion. It’s loaded with the goodness of roasted heirloom carrots, creamy cannellini beans and deliciously tangy and sumac spice. It’s so good you’ll want to spread it on everything.
- 6 Carrots (I used heirloom carrots in orange, yellow and purple, about 2 heaping cups once chopped)
- 1 C Cooked Cannellini Beans, really soft (jarred/canned works well here too)
- 4 Small Cloves of Garlic, whole, peeled
- 1/4 Tsp Herbamare
- Pinch Fine Sea Salt
- 1/2 Lemon, juiced
- 1/2-1 Tsp Sumac Spice, to taste
- 1/4 Tsp Paprika
- Neutral Unscented Coconut oil for roasting carrots (optional)
- Filtered Water, as needed
- Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with parchment paper
- Slice the carrots into diagonal medallions, coat with a bit of coconut oil (if using), and sprinkle with Herbamare and half the sumac.
- Place carrots and garlic in a single layer on the baking tray and bake on the centre rack for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Scrape the cooled carrots and garlic and all the sumac off the tray/parchment paper and into a food processor.
- Process on high speed until the carrots are broken down into small pieces. Add a few drops of filtered water if needed to help break down the carrots but don’t add too much.
- Add in cannellini beans, paprika, remaining sumac, sea salt and lemon juice and process again until you have a smooth and spreadable consistency. You may need to add another couple of drops of water to get things moving, but again don’t add too much. You want a thick spread not a runny dip. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with more sumac, and serve with crackers, bread, and crudités.