Tahini is a common dish in Mediterranean cuisine. Now that it is summer and light Mediterranean dishes seem to go down well, it may be worth your while to experiment with tahini.
You can now find an Indian version under the brand Dakini, made in Pune. Buy the white one. They also make a very nice sunflower seed paste and a dark tahini, which health enthusiasts are sure to recommend, but it is too bitter for West Asian and Mediterranean food.
Tahini is an oily paste made from pounded sesame seeds. The seeds are soaked in water for 24 hours before being crushed with a heavy hammer to loosen the bran or outer coating from the kernels. The crushed seeds are soaked again in highly salted water—the salt content being enough to “float an egg”—for the bran to sink while the kernels are skimmed off the surface and grilled before being sent to a mill to be ground. The result is a rich and creamy paste.
There are two types of tahini—a light ivory-coloured one and a darker one. The lighter one is better and is sold in West Asian and Lebanese stores throughout the world. The nearest place to India you can buy tahini in is Dubai—a nut-flavoured variety that is used throughout West Asia in a variety of ways. It could be a creamy sauce to go with falafel, fish or vegetables, or can be used in dips such as hummus, tarator (with walnuts) or baba ghanoush. It is also used with sugar syrup to make halwa and is diluted with juice of Seville oranges and stock and cooked to make a sauce for the lamb kebab, kibbeh. Because of its high oil content, tahini can be preserved in a closed jar for up to a year.
Tofu and Tahini Spread
A healthy, low-calorie dip and sandwich spread
Makes 2 cups
½ cup tahini
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp white miso
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp drained capers
1 stalk finely chopped celery
N cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper
Place all the ingredients except the capers, celery and bell peppers in the container of a food processor and puree well. Mix the capers, celery and bell peppers by hand. Chill for an hour before serving. Makes a great drip served with raw vegetables or as a healthy salad dressing. It can be refrigerated for three or four days.
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