No Trouble in Tahini


When I first came to Israel many years ago, I was faced with a new world of eating and cooking. As a student, I ate in the fast food places of the day —mostly fa­lafel stands — and when I was feeling lush, at res­taurants specializing in cheap meals geared for students.

When I first came to Israel many years ago, I was faced with a new world of eating and cooking. As a student, I ate in the fast food places of the day —mostly fa­lafel stands — and when I was feeling lush, at res­taurants specializing in cheap meals geared for students.

Falafel joints always had (and still do) self-service plastic squirt bottles on the counter with tahini (think ketchup), whereas at a restaurant, the first (or maybe only?) course would inevitably be tahini and humus, mopped up with pita.
This smooth, rich paste ground from crushed sesame seeds is used in Middle Eastern cooking to enrich the flavor and texture of both savory and sweet dishes.
You actually could make your own sesame paste, starting from sesame seeds, if you have nothing better to do, but my suggestion is to look for a jar or can of tahini or sesame paste or ta­hina (they are all the same) in the Middle Eastern section of your supermarket or health food store.
What you are buying is the “raw material.” When you open the jar, you will be greeted by a layer of oil. Stir this in before proceeding.
Prepared tahini keeps for at least a few days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.
Once your tahini is ready, use as is or spread bread with honey and tahini. Serve on pita and you can add any number of additions in the “pocket.” Anything goes: alfalfa sprouts, sliced tomatoes, cucumber rounds, green pepper slivers.
Or you can dilute the tahini with additional oil and lemon juice and use as a salad dressing.
Use it for a dip with raw vegetables or crackers. Get to know recipes pairing tahini with eggplant, a favorite combination, or meat patties.
Use the tahini to make humus (chickpea spread) or in a burst of fusion cooking, try the tofu spread below. It tastes just like egg salad.
Tahini Spread
1 cup canned tahini (sesame paste)
1 cup water
juice of 2 lemons (about 6 Tbsps.)
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
minced parsley and/or paprika (optional)
Mix contents of can thoroughly. Measure out 1 cup of tahini and blend or process with 1 cup water.
Add lemon juice and garlic, blend again. Blend in parsley and/or paprika.
If mixture is too thin, add more raw tahini; if it’s too thick, dilute with more lemon juice and/or water.
Keep in a covered container in refrigerator.
Tahini Cookies
(Dairy or Pareve)
1 cup butter or nondairy margarine
1⁄2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup tahini
1 and 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 325˚.
Cream butter or margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add honey, vanilla and tahini. Mix until well combined.
In a separate bowl, stir flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl. Stir into butter mixture. 
Drop onto a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet with two teaspoons.
Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the cookie sheet 10 to 15 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 4 dozen.
Middle Eastern Hummus
2 cans (15 oz.) chickpeas
1⁄2 cup prepared tahini
3⁄4 cup lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
ground cumin
Drain chickpeas, reserving liquid. Puree 1 can of chickpeas in food processor with tahini, lemon juice and garlic.
Gradually add remaining chickpeas. Continue pureeing until smooth. Add more liquid from can, if necessary.
Add salt, pepper and cumin to taste. Chill for at least two hours in a covered container.
Tofu Spread
1 lb. firm tofu, cubed
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, grated finely
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup prepared tahini
2 tsps. lemon juice
Place all ingredients except salt into a food processor or blender and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
Baba Ghannouj
1 eggplant (1 lb.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 cup parsley, minced
6 Tbsps. tahini
herb seasoning to taste
Trim off eggplant stem. Pierce with a fork and bake at 350˚ until the skin is wrinkled.
Let cool then scoop out the inside and place with minced garlic in a bowl or a food processor.
Mash or process with lemon juice, parsley and tahini. Season to taste with tamari and/or herb seasoning. Refrigerate for one hour before serving.
Serves 6.
Brocolli With Tahini
 This appetizer includes tahini and broccoli, but cauliflower makes a great substitute.
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1⁄2 cup tahini
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
1⁄8 tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
Steam broccoli for 10 to 15 minutes until tender. Check often to ensure it does not overcook. Once tender, drain in col­ander. Set aside.
Mix garlic, cumin, lemon juice, cayenne, and tahini in medium bowl. Add salt and pepper.
Add a tablespoon of water until desired consistency. Ideally, it will be smooth and creamy. 
Add broccoli to sauce and stir, or serve broccoli as a dipping food. 
Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate.
Rivka Tal is a former Minne­sotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected]


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