Don’t Mess with Thanksgiving

The holidays are back once more. But you know that. It seems every magazine printed now until the big feast is giving tips on how to prepare your holiday bird or roast. And if you’re lucky, the myriad of articles will be accompanied by a day-by-day countdown planner. Good cooks everywhere have already started planning their tablescape, festive drinks, special appetizers, and most importantly, the main menu.

This is the season for herbs and spices to shine. But for every traditionalist who counts on parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, there are those excited to try something different this year. They scan pages of recipes that call for new flavors to excite the palate and wow their friends and relatives. My mother always warned me not to try a new recipe on an important occasion, least of all Thanksgiving. At the table, she said most would complain and maybe one person would enjoy your creativity.

But for those of you who want to break the mold, and I don’t mean Jello, full speed ahead. Why not try the ancient Middle Eastern herb sumac on your holiday turkey, fish, meat, or vegetables? And don’t think poison, Sumac. This one is not. It’s made from dried, ground ruby-colored berries. Known mostly as a substitute for lemon or vinegar, it adds a tangy fresh flavor, not to mention a burst of color to food. Sumac will be that secret herb that your taste buds love but just can’t identify. Add some oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, and marjoram to sumac to create “Za’atar,” the perfect herbal blend in which to dip those heavenly biscuits you will no doubt be baking. Be sure to dip your bread in olive oil first. Note, you can purchase both sumac and Za’atar locally at Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants in Temecula.

Remember, sumac is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory herbs you could use. It’s loaded with antioxidants to neutralize free radicals and protect us from cancer, signs of aging, and heart disease. Be bold. Experiment with new flavors and new herbs this year. Who knows? Maybe using non-traditional herbs might just become a new tradition for you and your family.

Happy Herbal Thanksgiving Everyone!
By Cheryl Balster