What is it about the sesame seeds that has captured the imagination and taste buds of peoples alongside the Eastern Mediterranean (remember “Open sesame!” from the 1001 nights tales)? and its glorious paste, tahini, used in myriads of dishes, both savory and sweet.
All I know is that were it not for tahini, there would not be a so-called Middle-Eastern cuisine.
In Lebanese kitchens alone, hundreds of dishes have tahini as a component. Nary a vegetable dish does not contain a hefty portion of our tarator sauce.
The tarator sauce alone is presented in several versions, tahini with lemon juice, tahini with bitter orange, with minced parsley, with walnuts, etc.
Things to know about tahini:
- It is a natural food, a paste made from crushing hulled sesame seeds.
- It is a very healthy food; Omega-3, Omega-6, minerals, good fats, are contained in tahini.
- The lighter tahini is the kind favored in Middle-Eastern cooking. Don’t buy tahini if its color is dark. Light beige is good.
- It is used as mayonnaise is used in Western-style cooking, by diluting it in citrus juice and some water and flavoring it with a touch of garlic and sometimes fresh herbs.
- It is also used in sweets, when combined with molasses, like a Middle-Eastern P&J.
Feel free to add more observations on tahini, as this list is by no means exhaustive!
A basic tarator sauce:
- 1/2 cup of tahini
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh citrus juice (lemon, bitter orange or a combination of citrus)
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed in a mortar with 1/2 teaspoon of salt till pasty
Pour the tahini into a bowl; add the citrus juice, stirring; it will curdle at first. Keep stirring and add enough water to get the texture of a loose mayonnaise. Add the garlic, mix and taste and finally adjust seasoning if you wish to.
The next posts will explore all the various hummus recipes using this sauce.
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