Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lemony Sesame Tahina Sauce

"What can I put on my vegetables to make them taste good?" is a question I often hear from patients. Although fresh vegetables should taste good all on their own, lemon sesame tahina will add a touch of luxury to almost any vegetable which finds its way your plate and palate. The flavor of freshly made tahina is far superior to anything store bought. Preparation time: eight minutes.

Sesame seed paste is made of ground up sesame seeds (raw or toasted). Straight from the jar it is dense, intensely flavored and not terribly appealing. But it can be magically transformed into a velvety sauce or dip by blending it with fresh lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, water and salt. (The word "tahina" is derived from the Arabic verb which means "to grind").

There are many traditional tahina recipes. The simple but authentic recipe below calls for a minimum of ingredients. It is my rendition of the fabulous tahina I've eaten on the streets of Tel Aviv, where it is served drizzled over a plate of "hummus fuul", an unforgettable hummus and fava bean dish.  Rich in flavor,  tahina is high in nutrients including protein, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.

Lemony Sesame Tahina Sauce:

3/4 cup sesame seed paste ( room temperature)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup fresh water plus extra as needed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Place sesame paste, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil in the blender. Slowly begin to process on low, adding a stream of water as ingredients start to combine. Continue to blend and add water until tahina reaches the consistency you desire.  When sauce is smooth, blend in sea salt, then taste and correct seasoning if necessary.  Store tahina in a glass jar in the fridge until needed. Serve with fresh raw or cooked vegetables of your choosing.

Tahina is also a delicious garnish for lentils, black beans or other legumes. The beloved middle eastern staple, fuul mudammas, (fava bean stew) is often served with a generous portion of tahina.  To learn how to make  "Fuul Mudammas" see the earlier blog post by that name.

Dried fava beans for stew.