Tahini is a thick, oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It has a rich and nutty flavor that goes well with a variety of snacks and dishes. A staple on Middle Eastern tables, tahini is served as a dip with falafels and pita bread, used as a sandwich spread or served to accompany grilled chicken or fish. Beyond the traditional hummus and baba ghanoush dips, it also makes an ideal base to sauces for vegetarian dishes.
If you have ever wondered why sesame paste from the supermarket tastes nothing like the tahini from your favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, that’s because it is not meant to be eaten straight from the jar. Instead, it must be whisked with warm water and fresh lemon juice and enhanced with seasonings to turn into a luscious dip. In addition to the plain recipe, “Bon Appétit” magazine proposes tahini variations flavored with fresh oregano, black pepper, grated garlic and smoked paprika.
Appetizers & Salads
Tahini is an important ingredient in several classic Eastern Mediterranean dips. Hummus is made of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil blended smooth. Baba ganoush combines the pulp of roasted eggplants, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil roughly blended and seasoned with salt and pepper. Tahini can also be used in salad dressings; “Bon Appétit” magazine provides a good example with shredded chicken breast and noodle salad tossed in tahini, rice vinegar, soy sauce and crushed red pepper flakes, and garnished with scallion and sesame seeds.
Sesame paste also enters into the composition of main dishes, providing unctuous consistency and smooth flavor. In recipes suggested on the BBC Food website, an assortment of toasted seeds and hazelnuts, seasonings and tahini make up the sauce in which king prawns are cooked; while tahini, rice vinegar, sesame oil and Asian condiments enhance sesame spinach served alongside a rack of lamb. Tahini sauce sprinkled with Aleppo pepper also provides the finishing touch to roasted squash seasoned with cumin and scallion, another creation found in “Bon Appétit" magazine.
Sweets & Desserts
Last but not least, tahini is used to make rich sweets and desserts. A good selection of recipes, including tahini cookies flavored with vanilla essence and freshly ground cardamom, decorated with blanched almonds; as well as sesame truffles made of cashew nuts, tahini and agave nectar rolled into sesame seeds for coating, can be found on yummly.com, a website by and for foodies. A warm buttery tahini caramel sauce makes an inventive topping drizzled over a spongecake roll filled with honey semifreddo for an elegant dessert with an exotic touch.
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