It may be an ancient food, but tahini, or sesame paste, is enjoying a major renaissance right now. Fans of Middle Eastern food may know it best as the stuff they drizzle on falafel. But thanks to chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Einat Admony (not to mention countless food writers and bloggers) making creative use of tahini, it's clear that the recipe possibilities are virtually endless. Considering that sesame seeds are a fixture in many Asian, African, Indian, Caribbean,and European recipes,... it's no surprise that tahini works across cuisines. And with artisanal producers turning out top quality tahini, it's a great time to experiment with this incredibly nutritious ingredient.
Where to Get Top Notch Tahini: Middle Eastern Markets, specialty grocers, kosher supermarkets, and health food stores are good sources for tahini. Look for brands made with 100% sesame seeds, and nothing else. A little oil separation is fine, but good quality tahini will generally be mostly emulsified. Avoid dusty jars or those with close expiration dates -- two signs that the shop doesn't have decent turnover on their tahini stock. The Israeli brand Lior is a solid choice.
If you can't find it locally, Soom Foods is a wonderful source for high-quality tahini. Made from the prized Ethiopian White Humera sesame seeds, Soom's kosher-certified tahini is a favorite of several prominent Israeli chefs -- Einat Admony, Michael Solomonov, and Alon Shaya, who serve it at Bar Bolonat, Zahav, and Shaya, respectively. (The restaurants may not be kosher, but these renowned chefs can definitely vouch for quality tahini!) Soom will even help you explore recipe possibilities with a gift box that includes two jars of tahini, plus Adeena Sussman's Shortstack volume dedicated to tahini. (While not every recipe in the informative booklet is kosher, most are -- and they're mighty tasty.)
If you live in New York City (or happen to be visiting), make a stop at Seed + Mill, an artisanal halva and tahini outfit in Chelsea Market. (You can order online, but you must order at least $30 worth of product.) Seed + Mill's products are certified by either Badatz or United Kosher Supervision, depending on whether the they were made in Israel or in on site in New York.
Want to try your hand at making your own tahini? Check out this recipe from Middle Eastern Food Expert Saad Fayed.
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Start the day with a little sesame-fueled yumminess. This Banana Tahini Smoothie is frosty and mellow. Tahini adds nutty creaminess that balances banana's sweetness, while a little cinnamon spices things up.
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Anatolian Kitchen blogger Brittany Peterson adapts a classic recipe for Anatolian tahini rolls by swapping white flour for multigrain, reducing the sugar, and adding in dried fruit. The yeasted dough is wrapped around a tahini filling, and wound into coil-shaped buns that are perfect with coffee.
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While this dish of roasted root veggies, leeks, garlic, and dates was created for Rosh Hashana, it's too delicious to save for the Jewish New Year alone. Colorful, delicious, and incredibly nutritious, it makes a fantastic side dish, salad topper, or grain accompaniment throughout the fall and winter.
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Sesame paste works as both a flavor booster and a natural emulsifier in this Tahini Caper Salad Dressing. Served over greens, it makes a satisfyingly savory vegan alternative to Ceasar dressing. It also works as a dip for crudites, a sauce for grilled fish or chicken, or a drizzle on sandwiches or wraps.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Roasting a cauliflower whole makes for an impressive presentation. Accenting it with a nutty tahini sauce, pumpkin seeds, and a shower of chopped fresh herbs makes it impressively delicious. This Tahini Roasted Cauliflower with Pepitas and Herbs, from Gourmet Food Expert Brett Moore may be dinner party worthy, but that doesn't mean you won't find excuses to make this recipe even when you're not entertaining guests.
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A little zaatar and a creamy (yet dairy free) lemon-tahini dressing tie Middle Eastern Food Expert Anita Schecter's Chickpea and Brussels Sprout Salad together. (While several kashrut agencies recommend avoiding Brussels sprouts due to concerns over insect infestation, some halachic authorities allow the use of sprouts that are shredded slaw-style, as in this salad.
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Jen Hoy's honey sweetened Sesame Tahini Halvah recipe is simple, straightforward, and can be enjoyed as is, or customized with nuts or flavorings like rosewater or vanilla. There are other versions that are a bit more involved -- which includes both sugar and honey, as well as sesame seeds, tahini, and spices, but a food processor makes quick work of the preparation.
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Looking for a savory snack that's good for you too? Leda Meredith's Oven-Baked "Cheese-y" Kale Chips are totally vegan, but get a serious hit of flavor from a combo of nutritional yeast and tahini. Let's just say this is the sort of recipe that makes it very easy to eat your veggies.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Sure, you can find tubs of prepared hummus in just about any supermarket. But nothing beats homemade hummus, the tahini-enriched chickpea dip that's a staple throughout the Middle East and Levant. Giora Shimoni's recipe is a typical example of Classic Israeli Hummus.
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If you've never tried roasting carrots before, you're in for a treat with this Farro with Cumin Roasted Carrots and Cumin Tahini. Anita Schecter's recipe is not only nutritious and delicious, it's a great example of how you can use a little spice to enhance tahini-based sauces.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Whether you're iffy about kale or adore it, you owe it to yourself to give Gluten-Free Expert Stephanie Kirkos' Kale and Golden Beet Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing a try. Sturdy yet tender Lacinto (aka dinosaur) kale leaves, roasted golden beets, walnuts, and golden raisins combine in a multi-textured salad that hits lots of flavor notes, from savory to sweet to brightly acidic. The tahini-lemon dressing marries it all together for a satisfying entree or side.
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Tahini adds subtle nuttiness and tempers the sweetness of the chocolate ganache layer in this beautiful Dried Apricot Tart. A Star of David (Magen David) lattice tops the tart for an impressive presentation, though you can make a traditional lattice- or skip the pastry topping altogether - for an even simpler preparation.
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If you think the only tahini sauce out there is the stuff you drizzle over gyros, think again. Anita Schecter's Tahini Caramel Sauce elevates ice cream sundaes, cake, fruit, and bread pudding, to name just a handful of possibilities.