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Saturday, February 05, 2011


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Tahini is like the peanut butter of the Middle East, but better — it's made with sesame seeds! Sesame seeds are exceptionally rich in iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, and calcium, and contain vitamin B1 and vitamin E. Sesame oil has a very high antioxidant content. Sesame seeds also contain phytosterols associated with reduced levels of blood cholesterol. The nutrients of sesame seeds are better absorbed if they are ground or pulverized before consumption, as in tahini.

Tahini is used in making hummus (mashed chickpeas, flavored with lemon juice and garlic), baba ghanoush (a purée of eggplant, lemon juice, garlic, and oil), halvah (a confection that includes honey or cane syrup), and other traditional dishes. You can buy it just about anywhere in town and it will keep pretty much forever in your pantry. You can even make your own at home. I love a simple tahini salad dressing made with tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic yogurt and a little cumin.

Homemade Tahini

4 cups raw sesame seeds
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350. Spread your sesame seeds on a roasting tray, and toast in
the oven for 15 minutes, stirring regularly to toast evenly. Do not allow to brown as this impairs the flavor.

Remove the sesame seeds from the oven and allow to or cool briefly. Using a blender of food processor, combine the toasted sesame seeds and add half the oil. Process the mixture on a high setting for a minute, stopping to clean the sides of the food processor or blender with a spatula from time to time. Add the rest of the oil, and continue to process the seeds to a paste, again cleaning the sides regularly and ensuring that the paste still covers the blades. Ensure that all the mix is blended to a paste. This can be a somewhat messy process, but stick with it. The results will be worth it!

When the mixture is evenly smooth, and more processing does not further refine the texture, transfer your tahini to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, using a flexible spatula, if you have one, to reduce waste. Tahini may be kept in the refrigerator for many weeks in a well-sealed jar. Always refrigerate your tahini so the oil does not go rancid.