Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Open To Sesame

\Mention sesame to most  Americans and they'll automatically think of a decorative topping for a hamburger bun. Mention the same seed to people from the Middle East, Turkey or Greece and they'll think tahini or halvah. Now it's becoming big stateside

Julia Moskin wrote about this extremely versatile seed in today's New York Times Food section.Sesame seeds can be turned into tahini if crushed or into the classic sweet halvah if mixed with sugar.It was long looked down upon as poor people's food, a treat for those who could not afford expensive pastries made with butter white flour and sugar. However Isreali, Turkish, and Greek chefs, long familiar with both are using both to create interesting main dishes and desserts. It is grown around the world and was one of the first plants cultivated for is' oil.It grows primarily in hot weather climates such as China, India, Myanmar and sub saharan Africa.Black sesame paste is used in East Asia, mostly for creates a sugary inky black soup and is being used by trendy Japanese bakers to create elegant dove grey cheesecakes and chiffon cakes.Sesame is a part of the Chinese New Year treat jian due, fluffy rice balls coated in golden sesame seeds.Indians turn the seeds into brittle and candy balls for winter snacking. They're considered warming in the ayurvedic tradition Africans brought them to the american South where they're still known by the Bantu name benne, where they're made into melting savory crackers.

Home chefs too are fully embracing both  as they now crave Mediterannean and Middle Eastern foods.Hummus lovers already have been introduced to tahini. It's one of the ingredients in the chickpea dip.It gives foods a salty nutty under taste that actually works just as well with dessert recipes. In a way tahini is similar to peanut butter with grinding an oily seed or nut until the solids are minuscule enough to form a smooth, silky emulsion with the oil.Halvah also has the sesame seed paste  but it's blended with boiled and whipped sugar foam  to create a fluffy , feather light melt in your mouth treat/. Ms Moskin gives interesting recipes with the article. Home chefs can try it in salted chocolate chip cookies. It creates a different kind of cookie , one with savory notes that work well with the dark chocolate/ There is also a halvah semifreddo, a delicious mix of halvah, pistachios and whole cream frozen in a loaf pan.Another recipe is a fun candy like mix of Rice Chex or cornflakes, tahini and milk chocolate melted and mixed together to form crunchy  sweet rounds. These can be crumbled and sprinkled over ice cream too. For those who cannot get enough of halvah try the Greek pasteli, soft wedges of  sesame seeds, thyme honey and orange made for thousands of years on the island of Kea. Halvah can be bought on line and in different flavors such as chocolate and pistachio.

Sesame seeds are not just for decorating hamburger buns. They can be turned into a creamy sauce used for both savory and sweet dishes  as well as a feather light candy. Try tahini and halvah to experience a different side of the seed,

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