Tahini is a staple in Middle Eastern cooking and baking.It adds so much to main meals and sweets, giving them a unique flavor and certain creaminess. What's great too is that home chefs can experiment with it, incorporating it into all sorts of recipes.
Yotam Ottolenghi extolled its' virtues in an article plus recipes in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Tahini is n ancient dish, from the Arabic and it means to grind.It's also prevalent not only in Greek cuisine but surprisingly Vietnamese and Southeast Asian as well. It can be made it home, using hulled sesame seeds and olive oil. If not, look in Middle Eastern shops or online. The best according t Chef Ottolenghi is the Al Arz from Israel and Al Taj from Lebanon. He also recommends the famed "camel tahini" Al-Jamal from Palestine. There is also the Jebrini brand, one of the oldest manufactured, from Israel, made in East Jerusalem. The third generation of this 130 year old business use the best sesame seeds from the coveted humera variety of Ethiopia. Then the seeds are hulled and hand ground in old millstones, that are 200 years old. Tahini manufacturers are not that careful, allowing for hulls and over roasting - which leads to a bitter tasting spread.
Tahini can be used in both savory and sweet recipes. A Palestinian main course is lamb siniyah, where the condiment is poured over cooked lamb and then baked in the oven. The tahini is baked into a thickly, rich crust, like the mashed potatoes topping a shepherd's pie.It can also be made into a tasty dressing to be served over a tomato and cucumber salad. Try it on any barbecued chicken or steaks this barbecue season. Tahini goes well with sweets too, and Chef Ottolenghi gives two dessert recipes. The first is a sesame, date and banana cake enriched by a tahini -cream cheese icing. This last is definitely healthier than the regular cream cheese icing, because it doesn't have all that confectioner's sugar.There's marscapone cheese and brown sugar for tartness and flavor. Two tablespoons of sesame seeds are in the fruit rich cake along with three tablespoons of tahini.It laso is the star of Chef Ottolenghi's oat and tahini cookies.A quarter of a cup of it is mixed in with oats, dark brown sugar and hazelnuts.Melted dark chocolate is drizzled on top of these gems for added decadence.
Tahini is definitely a worth try in both savory and sweet dishes. Try it drizzled over barbecue chicken or a tomato salad.Use it in an icing or as a boost to cookies. It's delicious , adding oomph to any dish.