What's as thick as wallpaper paste, looks like tile grout, smells like a nut factory, and rhymes with teeny weeny yellow-polka-dot bikini?
Tahini, an essential component of both hummus and baba ghanoush, is an essential item in The Perfect Pantry. A paste made from sesame seeds, it's so much like homemade peanut butter that recipes often indicate you can substitute one for the other.
In commercial tahini production, sesame seeds are soaked in water for a day, then crushed to separate the bran from the kernels. The crushed seeds are put into salted water, where the bran sinks, but the kernels float and are skimmed off the surface. They are toasted, then ground to produce an oily paste. You can make tahini at home, using a much simpler method.
When you open the can or jar, you will see that the oil has separated and risen to the top. You must stir vigorously before using, just as though you were mixing the paint in a can, to even out the consistency.
Tahini sauce is a popular topping for falafel, and it's great on grilled chicken, on pizza, or in place of peanut butter in a PB-and-cucumber-filled pita or spread on a tomato sandwich. To turn tahini paste into tahini sauce, place a bit in a food processor, and slowly add additional olive oil until you achieve a pourable consistency. You can add a bit of lemon juice or yogurt, too. And some chopped parsley. And cayenne. And smoked paprika....
As traditional as it gets. Makes 4 cups.
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup tahini
2/3 cup water
4 cups canned chick peas, drained (reserve 1/4 cup liquid)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Paprika (optional, for garnish)
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the garlic, lemon juice and tahini until a smooth paste. Add the water and chick peas, and continue to process until mixture is almost fluffy. Add some of the reserved chick pea liquid, if necessary. Season with the cumin. Transfer to a bowl. If desired, drizzle the oil over the top and swirl with a knife. Sprinkle with paprika.
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