It's been dawning on me recently that so many of the products I regularly buy are easy to make at home. Sometimes it's economical to do it, sometimes not. Sometimes it's better than the commercial version, sometimes not (remember fresh pumpkin puree?) Most of the time, though, it's educational and a lot of fun to make a favorite food from scratch and see how simple it can be.
Tahini, which I use all the time in hummus, is a very finely ground sesame butter thinned with olive oil. It's used in Middle Eastern, North African, Greek, Turkish and Asian cooking. It's usually an ingredient rather than a stand alone food and it's used in tons of things from soups and sauces to desserts. If you like to cook Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food you'll want to have this around. And yes, this is one of those do-it-yourself projects that is more economical and tastier than the commercial product.
Sesame seeds don't look like much but they pack a big punch, especially when they're toasted. If you've ever used sesame oil you'll know the aroma. I don't usually have lots of sesame seeds hanging around, in fact most of you probably buy them in a tiny spice jar size. But sometimes I like to add them to homemade granola, so I bought a large bag of them. The same companies that sell specialty flours, Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills, sell sesame seeds in bulk as well.
2 cups of sesame seeds will yield a pint of tahini. The texture will be slightly more coarse than commercial brands, which are made from hulled seeds in commercial machines. The hulls on regular sesame seeds will give the tahini a slight texture, but the homemade has a more distinct flavor, which makes up for any difference in texture, imo.
oven to 350
2 cups sesame seeds
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
- Spread the seeds out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan to redistribute the seeds several times, and watch out for burning. Cool on the pan.
- When the seeds are cool, put them in the bowl of a small food processor. Drizzle the oil in while processing the seeds. It will take about 3 to 5 minutes to get it completely smooth. Add enough oil to get a runny consistency and scrape down the sides as necessary. When in doubt, keep processing.
- That's it! Store the tahini in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
I use tahini all the time in hummus, and mixed with lemon juice and water it's the perfect sauce for falafel, shish-kebab, or even veggie burgers.
I'll be posting the delicious Hummus I made with my tahini, and a killer Laffa Bread tomorrow...