Don’t be put off by that funny-sounding ingredient, Tahini (pronounced Ta-HEE-nee), essential to making delicious hummus, baba ganoush
(an eggplant spread), and halvah
(a sweetened sesame porridge), among other dishes. Widely used in various Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, Tahini is made of sesame seeds ground into a paste with a little olive oil. It is sold fresh, in cans, and in glass jars, and available at many chain groceries as well as Middle Eastern, Greek, or Mediterranean food markets and some health food stores.
Organic tahini is also widely available. Expect to pay around $3 to $8 for a small jar. If you can’t find tahini at a local store, the Ethnic Grocer sells tahini and a myriad of other Mediterranean food products via their online market. A little Tahini goes a long way. For instance, hummus, as an appetizer for four people, takes just two to three tablespoons of the paste. Therefore, buy the smallest quantity of tahini you can find to ensure freshness, usually a 13 or 16 oz. jar. Once opened, store tahini in the refrigerator. It should keep for about two months.
A Nutritious and Versatile Ingredient
Tahini is very nutritious as well as tasty. It has virtually no cholesterol and is very low in sodium. Although Tahini is around 50 percent fat, only about 10 percent of that fat is saturated. Tahini is also high in protein and contains iron, potassium, and vitamins C and E.
A Classic Hummus Recipe
Hummus, made with chickpeas and tahini, is a staple of eastern Mediterranean cuisine. Each country, from Turkey to Lebanon to Greece, has its own version of the dish. Hummus is affordable. You can make this recipe for around $3, (if you prorate the cost of the tahini). Serve Hummus as an appetizer with pita toasts and vegetables, as a sandwich spread, or as a non-dairy thickener in cooking.
1 large can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp Extra virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste, available at many groceries and Mediterranean specialty stores.)
2 Lemons, squeezed
Ã?Â¼ c. Water
Ground white pepper
Ã?Â¼ tsp. Cumin
Olive oil and fresh broad-leafed parsley for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a blender or a food processor, scraping down the sides, and process until smooth. Pour into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with grilled or toasted pita squares or a variety of vegetables. Makes 2 cups.
Hummus keeps well. This recipe may be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to three months. You can vary this recipe according to your personal taste. Add more or less garlic, paprika, or parsley. You can also vary the consistency by adding more or less water.
Other Uses for Tahini
In addition to making hummus, use tahini as a delicious and vegan thickening agent for sauces and soups or as a spread, in place of butter, on sandwiches and crackers. Some sources will suggest substituting peanut butter for tahini, but I don’t recommend it. The taste is as different as peanuts are from sesames.