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March 4, 2008

Tahini (Recipe: potato salad with sesame dressing) {vegan, gluten-free}

Tahihi1

Last week, I spied this can of tahini on the shelf in our small town supermarket.

Friends, this is news.

Finding tahini in our town is like striking oil in the middle of Manhattan, or discovering great bagels in Mongolia. Not impossible, but not entirely likely, either.

Tahini (pronounced ta HEE nee) is sesame paste, made by crushing sesame kernels, which are then toasted and ground. There are two types, light and dark; it's the light tahini we use most often, because it's said to have superior texture and flavor.

Interestingly, the largest commercial producers of sesame seeds are India, China and Mexico. The primary producers of tahini, however, are Lebanon, Turkey and Israel.

Just like peanut butter -- thick, creamy, and a bit oily -- tahini is one of the key ingredients in hummus, baba ghanoush and halvah, and also in tahini bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, sesame zucchini soup, and Italian-style sesame noodles. In a pinch, you can substitute peanut butter for tahini.

Don't confuse tahini with Asian sesame paste. Tahini is made from sesame seeds that have been hulled and toasted; Asian sesame paste is made with unhulled seeds and has a more bitter flavor. You can use tahini (or peanut butter) in place of Asian sesame paste, but not vice versa.

An all-natural product, tahini contains no emulsifiers or stabilizers, so the oil will separate and rise to the top of the container. Give a thorough stir before you use it, to reincorporate the oil. Store opened tins or jars in the cupboard, for several months. Use tahini in moderation; it's high in fat (no trans fats, though) and calories, at 85 calories per tablespoon.

Tahini used to be considered an exotic ingredient, available only in ethnic markets, specialty stores and, more recently, online. But if I can find it in the woodlands of Rhode Island, you might find tahini hiding on the shelf in your local grocery store.

Potato salad with sesame dressing

A nice change from traditional potato salad, this is particularly delicious with roast lamb or grilled chicken. Serves 8; can be doubled.

Ingredients

6 medium potatoes
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tsp fresh spearmint leaves, roughly chopped

For the tahini dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp water
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place in a sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the potatoes are just cooked through, 10-12 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the ingredients for the tahini dressing.

Drain the potatoes, and toss them in a bowl with scallions, parsley, mint and the dressing. Let marinate in the refrigerator for several hours. Just before serving, toss again, and season with sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Traditional hummus
Shish taouk (garlic chicken on skewers)
Zahtar

Comments

That sounds perfect to go with all of the grilled Asian-influenced meats this summer... If I can ever find it, of course. Hen's teeth would be easier here...

That's really interesting--I've never heard of tahini before but I will definitely be looking for it. Seems like it could add a lot to a lot of dishes, especially those potatoes!

LOL! Glad you found that can of tahini. ;-) Interesting, I didn't know I could substitute with peanut butter in a pinch. That's good to know. ;-)

Paz

I love hummus, Lydia, so there's always a jar of tahini in my pantry.
I also use it a lot in a yogurt based salad dressing - I have become addicted to it!

That is just a grand idea Lydia! And I think it might work in a slaw as well.

this is great. Now I have a use for it other than hummus.

Brilliant! you've just answered some of the questions I had about tahini with this post! I was wondering for how long it can be kept. It says 1 month on the jar, but I've had it for much longer now, and it seems fine. Also, I keep it in the fridge.

Thanks!

I love tahini as is! I like to dip vegetables in it or eat it with just about every Middle Eastern food!

This sounds really good. I am always looking for a good tahini dressing recipe.

I really hate when I forget a jar of tahini in the cupboard for a while and find when stirring it up, the paste at the bottom has gone like cement! That aside, it really is a versatile pantry staple, I love how it combines with eggplant in babaganoush.

Katie, that's exactly how I felt, until I found this is my local market. Now I feel certain you can find it in France!

Mike, if you've had hummus, you've had tahini. You might know it as sesame paste. It is truly wonderful stuff.

Paz, both the taste and texture of peanut butter are very similar to tahini, so it makes a good substitute.

Patricia, I love tahini with yogurt in a dressing, too, with some lemon juice and garlic. Yum.

MyKitchen, it would be interesting in a slaw (with cabbage, yes?) -- especially with Patricia's suggestion to use yogurt in the dressing, which would tenderize the cabbage a bit.

Veron, I'm always looking for more ways to use tahini!

Maninas, the separated oil actually helps to preserve the sesame paste below -- but, as Neil mentions in his comment below, if it's kept too long, the tahini will solidify -- and then there's not much hope for it.

Hillary, what a great idea -- I've never used it straight, as a dip. Will try it!

Gretchen, this is a great all-purpose dressing. Hope you like it.

Neil, ugh, yes, the rock-hard tahini... I've started to write the dates on the lids when I open any product. It helps me remember how long I've had it in the pantry, and when to check for freshness. Baba ghanoush is wonderful -- I must admit that I like it much better than hummus.

Tahini is wonderful, and this potato salad recipe sounds like a taste of heaven!

Oh Lydia, I know what you mean about having to snatch something up when you finally find that hard-to-find something. Tahini is great and a very good source of calcium too! V. good in cookies...

Is this anywhere close to those tahini or sesame seed butter? I got myself some tahini butter and use it to "dress" my noodles sometimes. Of course, it was supposed to go into a sandwich!

I love the name / idea of your blog! My grandmother had the most wonderful pantry in England, I still miss it.
I think your unusual discovery of tahini will bring hope for many, as once I posted my recipe for hummus I received notes from readers about how hard it was to find where they lived :)

Oooh... I have some tahini here! This sounds great! :)

Your last few posts on Eastern Mediterranean pantry items have really gotten my tummy growling. I absolutely love hummus, using it to dip fresh veggies in as well as pita chips and pretzels.

While I typically make hummus from scratch, I have trouble finding good tahini to use (by good I mean good tasting.) Perhaps the brand pictured above is better than some of the others I have tried.

Also - I loved the idea of using tahini dressing in potato salad. It sounds delicious. I'll make this soon and not tell my family - it will be interesting to see if they taste/notice the difference and what their reactions are.

TW, save this recipe for summer, when it pairs so well with garlic grilled chicken.

Callipygia, cookies? What a great idea! I'm going to search for some recipes with the new Food Blog Search feature.

Tigerfish, unless I'm mistaken (and I surely could be), I think tahini "butter" is the same as tahini -- just a different name for it.

Erika, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I always use my little town market as the benchmark -- "if I can find it here, you can find it anywhere."

Michelle, I always have a can or jar of tahini in my pantry. The urge to make hummus can strike at any time!

Sandie, I've had good luck with this particular brand, but there are many more options at my local Middle Eastern market. If your family likes peanut butter, perhaps they'll go for the tahini, too?!

I refrigerate my tahini, which helps keep the oil from separating. Refrigerated, I think it's probably good for a year. I buy the Eastwind brand, which is organic.

Sesame/tahini cookies are an excellent idea! I'm going to have to experiment tomorrow, I think. :)

Sonya, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks for your storage tip. Others have tried storing their tahini upside-down to keep the oil from separating; I'm always afraid to try this once the tin is opened!

Geez, that IS news Lydia. I remember making hummus without it & I think I haven't seen it at all in the supermarket. You're a lucky woman...

The potato salad sounds so interesting- I've printed it so I don't forget about it later in the summer. I buy my tahini in a can as well, but transfer to a glass jar with a clamp lid so I can shake the oil back in a little.

Valentina, you can't imagine how surprised I was to find it here!

Katia, that's a great idea for storage -- thanks for the tip.

This is the ultimate tahini, and I'll be trying your recipe with it.

Other tahini uses: cookies (NYT Natural Foods Cookbook), and Korean Bean Sprout Salad (Myra Waldo Oriental Cooking). These are OLD books. The salad evolves, always good. Separation: old stuff is hard to mix, newer mixes better and stays mixed if you use it! Same with peanut butter: best if you get fresh ground.

Susan, I'm fond of this brand of tahini, too.

Susan, thanks for the great suggestions. I actually still have the NYT book on my bookshelf -- it's an oldie but goodie.

i am soooooooo interested in this paste. so many things i can do with it...yum yum yum

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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