Tag Archives: tahini

“Open _____.” (fill in the blank)

sBefore we get to today’s puzzler and food focus, here’s a hint about Andy’s newest post: he’s contemplating retsina wine, Zorba the Greek, and happiness.  It’s multi-faceted.  And in Food for Thought I share details about my new favorite plant.  But I may just have to love it from afar.

Now – the puzzler: what do these three pictures have in common?

Of course!  You knew it, didn’t you?  But I’ll bet you didn’t know that Sesamum indicum, from which we get our sesame seeds, grows to about 3-6′ tall, is planted annually, loves high heat, and is one of the most drought tolerant plants in the world. But for those doing the farming, it’s labor intensive because the harvesting must be done manually, and the capsules want to shatter (unless they’ve been bred to be shatter-resistant) before the crop has been harvested; 1/3 of the crop can easily be lost.

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The capsules are 1-3″ long and there are about 50-80 seeds per capsule.  And it takes about 1000 seeds to get one ounce, so it took at least 100 capsules of sesamum indicum to fill the 8 oz jar of seeds that’s in our cupboard.  I don’t think I’ll be growing the plant any time soon.

Even though sesamum is not the crop for our backyard garden, I have a bit of an addiction to the seeds.  In addition to the recipes posted here, which include a favorite cookie, I love Italian Biscotti Regina with their sesame coating; I crave Dan Dan noodles, which makes use of both sesame seeds and sesame oil, and we’re headed for Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2018 to taste their moles, which often include sesame seeds.

When I taught Social Studies at Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, LA, I had the privilege of connecting with amazing kids from lots of different cultures and backgrounds.  It was an eye-opening experience for someone who had grown up in the very white Fort Collins of the 1950’s (known then as the city with wide streets and narrow minds!).   In my World Geography classes I was way more excited to teach about the food of an area than about climate, landforms or capital cities, and we had fun with in-class samplings of food from some of the countries we studied.

We recently had a little dinner party at our house, and the featured course was Korean Sesame Noodles with Zucchini and Ground Beef.  Since a version of that recipe appears in our daughter’s first cookbook, Asian Vegetables, published 16 years ago, you might think that she developed the recipe.  But no.  Food bloggers are instructed to give credit where credit is due, so I must report that Sara got the recipe from me, and I got the inspiration for it from a recipe given to me at SMHS by a Korean-born student.  And Andy and I consider it our comfort food – we love it that much.  Its unique flavor comes from the 3 tablespoons of ground sesame seeds which are added to the ground beef.

A few weeks ago my Glen Ellen neighbor and friend, Deb, who is an excellent and precise cook – and a vegetarian – brought me some of her favorite recipes and one of them is Sesame Noodles with Asparagus Tips.  It’s our 3rd Best of the Besties recipe and provides a different but equally delicious approach to Sesame Noodles.

Korean Seseme Noodles

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Another recipe provided by a student from my Scotlandville days is a hand-written note on a scratch pad – printed, BTW, not cursive (she was ahead of her time 🙂 – for Humus [sic] Me Tahini.  I quote:

“Tahini is ground sesame seeds made into paste – Cheapest @ Oriental grocery.  I don’t like the taste when using peanut butter.”  

I’m guessing I didn’t have a clue what tahini was before receiving that note; and I certainly didn’t know that peanut butter could be a substitute for it.  Live and learn.

And my student is right; though you can substitute peanut butter in the fabulous Tahini Dressing, it’s just not the same.  Try the tahini dressing on roasted or steamed vegetables, on green salads, as a dip.  And it’s easy to make it more Asian-oriented by using some sesame oil (MORE sesame!!! YUM :), rather than all olive oil, and soy sauce, rather than salt.  Remember the recipe for Dukkah I gave you a while ago?  If you made it, toss some of it on top of the veggies and tahini dressing, and you’ll be so-gourmet, so-simply!  If you’re wondering what brand of tahini to buy, here’s what Saveur has to say.

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