Seriously, you do!
Tahini, in case you don’t know, is made from ground, hulled sesame seeds and it’s a key ingredient in a lot of Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, halvah and baba ganoush. I’ve had a jar of Whole Foods tahini in my fridge for months, bought originally to make homemade hummus (which I never actually got around to) and called for now and then in a recipe. But the stuff is really sticky and thick, with an unpleasant bitterness that sometimes affects the final dish, so mostly it’s just been sitting there unused.
Then I read an entire New York Times article about tahini last month, written by acclaimed Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. These lines in particular caught my attention: “Unlike Greek or Cypriot tahini, which I find to be claggy and bitter, tahini from the Middle East is creamy enough to pour over porridge, nutty enough to spread on toast, and smooth enough to eat by the spoon. . . . If what you think of as tahini is not creamy and delicious and nutty enough to eat directly from the jar, then you’re missing a trick.”
Whole Foods tahini is most definitely not delicious straight from the jar (sorry guys, but it’s true), so I got on the Internet and bought one of Ottolenghi’s recommended brands, Al Arz from Israel. (It was pricey on Amazon, but more affordable elsewhere.)
As you can see in this photo, Al Arz is anything but “claggy.” (What an awesome and underused word, by the way. I plan to work “claggy” into my vocabulary as often as possible.) Al Arz is more of a runny liquid than a paste:
And the taste is a revelation: No bitterness at all, just rich, deep sesame flavor.
So far, I’ve mashed Al Arz tahini into baked sweet potatoes with a pinch of salt (OMG), whisked it into some lemon-tahini salad dressing, drizzled it on toast with a bit of honey, and even baked a batch of banana-tahini muffins with chocolate chunks (using this Cooking Light banana bread recipe as a starting point):
I haven’t even gotten around to making hummus yet, and the jar is already half-empty!
By the way, another acclaimed Israeli chef, Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant (honestly one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten), has his own views on tahini. He swears by Soom Foods, sold by three sisters in Philadelphia from sesame seeds sourced in Ethiopia and ground in Israel. I’m trying that brand when my Al Arz runs out – which, at the rate I’m going, will be sometime next week. 🙂
Anyway, go try some of this good stuff and let me know what you think. And if you have any favorite tahini-based recipes you want to share, let us know in a comment below!
[ I don’t receive compensation for any of the products I review here or in my monthly newsletter. I just like to spread the word to TLT’ers when I find something worth sharing.]
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