Andy’s Sumac-and-Marash Spice Mix

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We’ve just launched Issue 3 of Jarry, and the past six months flew by so quickly that I missed my appropriate window of opportunity to share a favorite recipe from Issue 2. So before it’s too late, this is a quiet but great recipe from our magazine, one that readers might miss because as it’s incorporated into a photo series where spice blends are applied to the lips of models. Think about it… lips… spices…. blend!

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Anyway, Andy Baraghani—a senior food editor at Bon Appetit who, in his recipes there and elsewhere, has always challenged and inspired my cooking—developed this recipe for us at Jarry. It’s very, very simple, inspired, he says, by the sweet-spicy-sour flavors employed at the restaurant El Rey here in New York.

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“Sweet-spicy-sour” is a very accurate way to describe it—that’s what it adds to and draws out of the foods I’ve sprinkled it over. I dusted avocado toasts and hard-boiled eggs with it; mixed it with flaky salt, then spread it on a small plate to dip cold watermelon wedges into; I sprinkle it over pastas that need *something* to cut the richness. Andy recommends adding it to simple winter citrus salads. It’s one of those little tricks that make something old taste new. Likewise, and reminded by Heidi Swanson’s recent recipe, this blend has been shaking up my popcorn game.

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Andy’s Sumac and Maras Spice Mix

Recipe by Andy Baraghani, from Jarry Issue 2

Not every supermarket carries these spices, but middle eastern groceries will, and you can always order them online. I was unfamiliar with Maras pepper before—it’s sweet, has a bit of acidity, moderate heat, and more moisture than standard pepper flakes (I believe they’re pressed with a little oil before packaging, and seasoned with salt as well). And nigella seeds, which I’d seen sprinkled over flatbreads at Indian restaurants here, have a delightful, fruity nuttniess; they’re called “black caraway seed” on the package, but I’m not sure that standard caraway is a good substitute—that trademark flavor isn’t very pronounced in here. Then there’s sumac, with its sourness and astringency—I got familiar with that by reading Louisa Shafia’s wonderful book The New Persian Kitchen

Makes about 1/3 cup

3 tablespoons sumac
1 tablespoon Maras pepper
1 tablespoon nigella seeds

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. To transfer them into a spice jar, pour them on a piece of parchment paper, then lift the edges to create a gutter, and tip the blend into the jar.

Sumac and Maras Spiced Popcorn

I like olive oil with this, but melted butter—or clarified butter—or coconut oil would also probably be nice.

Makes about 6 cups

Splash vegetable, grapeseed, canola, or other high-smoke-point oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Heaping tablespoon Sumac and Maras Spice Mix
Salt to taste

Place a pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and 4 or 5 of the popcorn kernels and cover the pot. Once you hear them pop, add the remaining kernels and cover again. Swirl the pan often—using mitted hands—and then once the kernels start popping, give the lidded pot a gentle shake. Continue doing this until the popping subsides, which will take 3 to 7 minutes. Go by ear rather than the clock.

(I know that millions of people have made popcorn this way forever, but I struggled for years with it—I always got either burnt popcorn or kernels that failed to pop. Maintaining a solid medium-level heat was the trick for me, and then listening closely so as to not remove the pot too soon.)

Tip the popped popcorn into a bowl then return the pot to the heat. Add the olive oil, swirling it over the heat just enough to loosen it up, then drizzle it over the popcorn. Sprinkle with the spice blend and salt to taste, and toss well. Serve warm, or, after cooling, transfer to airtight bags or containers to snack on later.

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