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Tasty Tahini!

Recently, I have developed a love for Tahini, a creamy paste made out of crushed sesame seeds.  Not to be confused with Tahiti, which I’m sure is even more exciting (though sadly, I’ve never been). ;)

800px-Plage.sable.noir.Tahiti (Source)

tahinican1TAHINI paste has a nutty flavor, and is often used as the main component of hummus.  I had never actually used to stuff in meals until a few days ago, when I finally took the plunge and bought some for the first time.  Needless to say, I have since become slightly obsessed.

My original purpose in buying a jar was to use it in a hummus recipe.  I usually make my own hummus without the tahini, and really enjoy the taste.  But I figured, since it is usually a huge part of hummus, it was time to actually try adding it in.

Well…I still haven’t actually gotten around to making hummus with it.  Instead, I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with different ways to use it to enhance the taste of some quick meals.

Why I Love Tahini

Tahini is made by crushing sesame seeds to release their oil.  Because of this, it actually has a pretty high fat content.  However, the majority of the fat is mono- and poly-unsaturated along with some essential fatty acids.  The amount of saturated fat it contains is pretty low.  Also, the paste is naturally pretty thick (comparable to watered down creamy PB).  It is usually thinned with water when made into a sauce, so a little bit of the paste goes a long way.

tahinipaste

There are a lot of other great things about this sesame paste.  First, it contains absolutely no cholesterol and a good amount of protein and fiber.  And if that wasn’t enough, this simple food contains many vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B, Vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and even antioxidants called lignans which can reduce cholesterol and (in animal studies) have been shown to increase levels of Vitamin E and prevent high blood pressure.  Finally, tahini is low in carbs, which is nice if you don’t want to add extra carbohydrates to your meal.

tahini_nutrition While the most common use for this paste is in hummus, it’s also used pretty widely in Middle Eastern sauces, in soups, as a dressing or a garnish.  I’ve also heard that it can be used as a peanut butter replacement, but I’m not sure why you would do that.  PB is amazing…and the two spreads taste pretty different. ;)  So far, I’ve used it as a salad dressing, as a sandwich spread (used instead of cheese on an egg sandwich is delicious!), and most recently as a simple sauce for pasta.

How to Make a Basic Tahini Sauce

tahinisauce

To make a sauce, you only need 5 simple ingredients: water, lemon juice, salt, and garlic.  First, thin the tahini with water, using equal parts of each (if you use less water, the paste will actually become thicker…seems weird, I know!).  Then you can basically mix in the other ingredients to taste,

For my lunch today, I made a quick pasta salad with the few ingredients I have left in my near-empty fridge (I am in desperate need of a trip to the grocery store!).  I used just a spoonful of tahini mixed with a large spoonful of water, juice from a small lemon sliver, and garlic salt (since I just ran out of both garlic and salt).

Poured over a bowl of tempeh, tomatoes…and spinach Rotini.  I shook it around to coat evenly, then sprinkled a little fresh parm on the top.

tahinipasta1

This quick dish was actually extremely filling and super tasty!  My only complaint was the sad lack of veggies it contained.

tahinipasta4

If you’ve never had tahini, I encourage you to try it! There are many ways to use it that are far more creative than what I mentioned (like in Baba Ghanoush!), and it’s a pretty versatile substance you can tailor to fit your own personal tastes.

Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to actually using it in hummus…

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