Sesame Seed Selection
Sesame seeds have a nutty, slightly sweet taste and aroma which is enhanced by toasting. Widely available are the white and black varieties. The white has a delicate flavor and can be used in all dishes calling for sesame seeds. The black seeds have a richer flavor and stronger aroma and are best used alongside other bold ingredients so as not to overwhelm the dish.
Sesame seeds are available packaged in the spice section of grocery stores, as well as in bulk quantity in health food stores and Middle Eastern markets. Due to their high oil content, the seeds will quickly become rancid. It is best to purchase them in small amounts and use them quickly.
To bring out the nutlike flavor of sesame seeds, you will want to toast them. There are two methods: dry toasting on the stove top and baking in the oven. The stove top method is quicker; simply place an even layer of sesame seeds in a dry skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until the seeds are golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350-degree F. oven for 8 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown and fragrant.
Sesame Seed Storage
Sesame seeds should be stored in an airtight container. Unrefrigerated seeds can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to three months. If you refrigerate the seeds, they will last up to six months; frozen they will be good for up to one year.
Sesame oil, on the other hand, is remarkably stable and will keep for years without turning rancid, even in hot climates.