Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.


Tahini in Your Kitchen

by Sandra Bowens

I sometimes go on ingredient kicks in my kitchen. After finding something new or different, I like to experiment with ways to use it. Tahini is the item of the month.


It all started with a spectacular sesame seed ice cream that my husband and I enjoyed after a Japanese meal in Korea. The unusual dessert was not too sweet, coarse in texture and each bite left you wanting more. We talked about it for days and then decided that we would have to figure out how to make it at home. The recipe we arrived at is below. As you will see, tahini is the vehicle for the sesame seed flavor.


Tahini is a smooth paste made from ground hulled sesame seeds with a bit of salt. Available roasted or plain, I prefer the deep, toasty taste of the roasted version.  For this, I have to make a trip to the health food store but you may find both types available in the ethnic food section of your supermarket. Don't confuse tahini with sesame butter. The butter is made from pressed unhulled sesame seeds and is heavier in taste and texture.


Tahini is common to Middle Eastern cooking.If you have ever enjoyed hummus, the classic chickpea spread, then you have probably tasted tahini. The eggplant based baba ghanouj usually contains tahini as well. Besides these savory dips, tahini is often used in salad dressings or combined with soy products like miso (fermented soy bean paste) or tofu. It seems to have a special affinity for carrots.  


Few of the cookbooks in my library use tahini as an ingredient. That is, except for the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks. This famous vegetarian restaurant in New York calls for it often. I tried a memorable recipe for Halvah Shortbread from the Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook.  This rich shortbread combines butter, tahini and chopped nuts. I carried it to two different social occasions last month and people are still talking about it.


I offered the recipe to one woman and she told me, "You use such exotic ingredients, I'd never be able to do it." I giggled to myself, thinking how "unexotic" it seemed to open a jar.


You could make your own tahini by grinding the seeds with a vegetable oil to form a smooth paste. I have seen different recipe combinations from equal parts seeds and oil to using only 1/3 cup oil to four cups seeds.  My experience with this is that it is difficult to get the seeds ground as finely as you find in the prepared version.


If you do purchase a jar of tahini, you will need to give it a good stir the first time you open it. The oil separates a bit from the paste so just mix it back in with a spatula or knife, being careful not to slosh it over the sides. Refrigerate any leftovers, it will keep for months.


The ice cream in the recipe below is delicious on its own but I found it completely irresistible with a side of chocolate cake.  




Related Links:


Seeded hummus recipe at All About Sesame Seeds


Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook




Sesame Seed Ice Cream


1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream

1 pint (2 cups) half-and-half

1 cup toasted tahini

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash salt


Combine all of the ingredients using a blender or hand-held immersion mixer.


Freeze according to your ice cream machine's manufacturer's instructions.


Yield:  1 quart



Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

At last, the answer to the age old question of what goes with what. Thousands of ingredients are listed and cross-referenced making this book part reference, part cookbook.

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