Tahini is a classic middle eastern food that’s also an important ingredient in many vegan, vegetarian, and other healthy recipes – but what is it? And why is it a go-to food for people interested in healthy eating?
Tahini is actually a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds and olive oil, with a consistency similar to that of peanut butter. Its dense texture makes it a perfect base for smooth, thick foods like hummus, the classic middle eastern chickpea dip. Tahini sauce, a thinner version of the paste, is typically used as a condiment to add moisture and flavor to sandwiches and other foods.
Tiny Seeds With Big Nutritional Value
The outstanding nutrient content of sesame seeds makes tahini is a favorite ingredient in healthy food recipes. They’re very rich in beneficial minerals including copper, which is known to help reduce the joint inflammation related to arthritis, and manganese, which acts as an antispasmotic and is believed to help prevent migraines, assist in lowering blood pressure, and relieve the sleep problems related to meopause. Sesame seeds are also an excellent source of zinc and calcium, both of which are crucial to bone strength.
One of the most intriguiging nutritional aspects of sesame seeds is the fact that they’re rich in phytosterols, plant-based compounds with a chemical structure very similar to that of HDL or “good” cholesterol. Phytosterols are believed to act in the same way as HDL cholesterol in reducing blood levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol levels are known to contribute to the formation of arterial plaque and markedly increase risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
How To Make Your Own Tahini
Tahini is widely available in grocery stores and specialty shops, but making your own is a simple process and allows to you adjust the flavor and texture to your exact taste.
Ingredients: Vegetable or olive oil and sesame seeds, in a ratio of four parts seeds to one part oil; in other words, if you’re using one cup of seeds you’ll need one quarter cup of oil.
Step one: Toast the seeds. Spread them out in an even layer on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring frequently. The goal is to toast them lightly without browning them, which can make them bitter. Keep a close eye on the seeds during the toasting process. Remove from the oven as soon as they’re light toasted and allow them to cook briefly.
Step two: combine the seeds and half the oil in a food processor and process on high for one minute. This is a sticky process, so you’ll need to stop the processor and scrape down the sides with a spatula at least once or twice.
Step three: when the seeds and oil have started to form a paste, add the remaining oil and continue processing until the texture is that of a uniformly smooth and creamy paste. You’ll need to stop and scrape down the sides frequently during processing.
To store, empty contents of the processor into a covered glass jar and refrigerate. The paste can stored for a month or more if kept tightly sealed and refrigerated.