Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, is a Middle Eastern staple. You may be familiar with it because it’s a key ingredient in hummus, the traditional chickpea dip. Many of us have a jar of tahini sitting in the back of the refrigerator just waiting for when it’s time to make hummus. But tahini can flavor other dishes, from salad dressings and sauces to baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip) and grilled chicken and fish.
Blended with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and seasonings, tahini is especially appealing as a dressing for salad, vegetables, or sandwiches. You will find that tahini gives any dish or sauce a superb creamy, nutty and earthy flavor, making it delicious in desserts and excellent in sautés. The texture of tahini can be compared to that of natural peanut butter, and as with peanut butter, the oil separates from the solids and settles on the top. Be sure to stir the tahini well before storing the opened jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about six months. Chances are you will finish it up before that time.
Tahini can be purchased at Middle Eastern grocery stores (such as Daily Bread in Miami) in cans or jars. The texture and flavor will vary from brand to brand, so try a few to find the one you like best.
Tahini can be used in place of peanut butter to make cookies. This is especially helpful for peanut-allergy sufferers. You can slather it on sandwiches (especially those made on pita bread) as you would mayonnaise, or use it as a dipping sauce for vegetables or falafel. I like mixing tahini with soba or udon noodles for cold noodle dishes or adding it to deviled eggs.
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Equal parts soy sauce and tahini makes a great glaze to brush over salmon before placing it on the grill. I have always loved Halvah (the Turkish confection made with tahini and honey), and I discovered that I can duplicate the flavor by mixing heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, honey, and tahini together as a dessert topping.
Aaron Brooks’ Tahini Frozen Yogurt with Papaya, Mango, Local Honey and Raw Almonds
Aaron Brooks, Executive Chef of EDGE Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Miami, enjoys tahini-flavored desserts. A chilled bottle of Washington state’s Hogue Late Harvest White Reisling 2012 ($7.99) with its aromas and flavors of dried apricot and tangerine makes a great accompaniment.
1/2 cup tahini
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 cups milk
1 quart full-fat Greek yogurt
Pinch flaky sea salt
Place tahini, honey and corn syrup in a blender container and puree. Slowly drizzle in milk, followed by Greek yogurt and salt. Puree until all of the ingredients are well homogenized. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s recommendations. (It usually takes 25-30 minutes to complete a batch in my machine). Transfer to an airtight container, cover and freeze until ready to serve.
1 ripe mango (about 10 ounces each), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 ripe papaya (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup local honey
Place the fruits in the bottom of a bowl and top with a generous scoop of the frozen yogurt. Drizzle with a little of the honey and top with sliced almonds to finish.
Yield: Serves 8