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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

All about Tahini

I always have a jar of tahini, a Middle Eastern style of sesame paste, in my refrigerator. It used to last for ages because I really only used it in hummus and baba ghanoush. But not anymore. I think it’s probably the Ottolenghi books and a trip to Israel a few years ago that inspired me to use tahini more often. This rich nutty butter is a fantastic ingredient to use with all kinds of things. I particularly tahini with cauliflower, either in Warm Cauliflower Dip or on Roasted Cauliflower. Or start by making tahina, which is a sauce made with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and enough water to turn the mixture white and creamy. It’s good as a dip with pita, falafel, meatballs and more. My formula is about 1/2 cup tahini, juice of one lemon, salt, a small clove of finely mashed garlic and just enough water to make turn the sauce creamy and white. 

Tahini is available raw, roasted or dark roasted. Raw is somewhat higher in nutrients, but roasted versions are more commonly available. I recently tried a side by side comparison of several different brands of roasted tahini. All the brands used no emuslifiers or added oils. The more toasted, the stronger you will taste the sesame. It’s really a matter of personal taste. I compared MaraNatha, Sesame King and Whole Foods 365 Organic. While it didn’t make a big difference in hummus, by itself and just blended with water there was a clear difference. 

The Whole Foods brand was lightest in color, mildest and sweetest, despite the fact that it has no sugar. I think it is probably the least roasted. It comes from Israel. The Sseame King brand offers both roasted and light roast. I like both, but the roasted has a stronger more peanut butter like flavor. The MaraNatha was the darkest and had some bitterness to it. It was my least favorite. 

Upper left Sesame King light roast, upper right MaraNatha, lower left Sesame King roasted, lower right Whole Foods
Here are some ways to use tahini (other than in hummus)

* Add tahini to smoothies

* Combine tahini with Greek yogurt and season with salt or honey to make a dip for vegetables or fruit

* Mix tahini with sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic to dress cold noodles

* Dress salads or cooked spinach or broccoli with a blend of mayonnaise, tahini and rice wine vinegar

* Stir tahini and honey into whipped cream and serve with fruit or crisp phyllo 

* Mix tahini with water, season with salt and drizzle over roast fish, kebabs or fresh tomatoes, then garnish with fresh herbs

* Thin tahini with water, add some ginger or cinnamon and use in place of butter on sweet potatoes or roasted carrots 

* Bake tahini cookies 

* Add tahini to coleslaw or Asian slaw

* Use in place of mayonnaise in deviled eggs or egg salad

Disclaimer: I purchased the Whole Foods and MaraNatha brands, I was provided with samples of the Sesame King brand and was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on Cooking with Amy