Tahini - that peanut-butter-like paste you may have seen in the ethnic food aisle at your local grocery store - is becoming more ubiquitous in American life as hummus becomes a greater staple of our snacking diet. Sales of hummus are expected to reach $1 billion this year in the U.S. alone. Tahini, however, isn’t just for hummus. It’s found in many Middle Eastern staples and, with a little experimentation, you can find several roles for tahini in your pantry.
Raw Tahini vs Roasted
Tahini isn’t just tasty and versatile, it’s extremely good for you. You can find it in roasted and raw varieties; if possible, you should seek out the raw variety as it packs the greater nutritional punch (and tastes just as good). Raw tahini is high in protein, iron, fiber, calcium, and vitamins B1, B2, and E, making it an excellent addition to vegetarian, vegan, and raw food diets. It is also one of the highest non-animal sources of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is lower in fat than roasted tahini.
Tahini is also high in two unique compounds found only in sesame seeds, sesamin and sesamol. Studies indicate that they help to turbocharge the antioxidant power of Vitamin E in the body. In addition, tahini is a potent source of copper, manganese, and the amino acid methionine.
How to use Tahini
So what can you do with tahini? It’s good consumed raw as a dip or spread, and it can replace peanut butter in almost any application that calls for it, so it’s great for peanut allergy sufferers. A dollop can thicken sauces and add a Middle Eastern flavor to any dish. And, of course, there’s hummus, in all its glorious iterations. But if we’re going to talk about my favorite tahini application, it would be the “poor man’s caviar,” baba ghanoush.
Making baba ghanoush is actually very easy, but it takes a little time and patience. If you’ve got that (and a potent heat source), then you’re good to go.
Baba Ghanoush recipe
- 1 pound eggplant (one good sized globe eggplant should suffice)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt or Himalayan pink salt
- 1/2 bunch parsley
- juice of one large lemon
- 2 T tahini
- extra virgin olive oil (for a finishing drizzle)
Fire up the grill to medium-high. Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork, like you were going to bake a potato, and place it directly on the grill for 15-20 minutes or until the skin is completely blackened and the eggplant looks like a deflated balloon. Place the eggplant in an airtight bag until it cools to room temperature.
Once cooled, remove the skin and drain the flesh in a colander. Eggplant is actually fairly closely related to the tobacco plant, and contains bitter alkaloids that should be allowed to drain away for 15-30 minutes.
Put the eggplant flesh, garlic, cumin, kosher salt, lemon juice and tahini in your food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and top with extra-virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, a little sumac, a lemony brick-red spice popular in the Middle East which can be found online or at a specialty spice store. Serve with pita bread and veggies and get yours while you can, because I can guarantee it won’t last long.
- Dave Meddish, Live Superfoods