January 16, 2013
If your family loves hummus, I’m excited for you to start working more with tahini. It turns out that the paste made of sesame seeds is super packed with nutrition. Who knew?!
I was inspired to experiment more with tahini by my new favorite cookbook, Jerusalem: A Cookbook. I cannot adequately express in words how much I love this book. I cook from it all the time now. In fact, I’ve made the spinach salad recipe FIVE times in THREE weeks. It might be the most delicious salad ever. I’ve made it for several people outside of my family, one of whom sent the following text message the day after we shared it: I’m dreaming of that salad.
Anyway, back to tahini.
Like me, you’re probably wary of the claim “superfood,” but I swear that tahini qualifies with it’s rich store of calcium, zinc and fiber. Tahini also contains Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B15, all of which play an essential part in the running of the body. They support our metabolism, enhance immune and nervous system function, and—my favorite—help to maintain healthy skin and muscle tone. Ooh la la.
Let’s talk more about calcium for a second. We all know that it’s the good stuff that helps us form and maintain healthy bones, especially important for women and growing children. But there’s more to this essential mineral. Recent studies suggest that calcium may help reduce our overall risk of cancer, especially women. Most folks rely on cow’s milk as their primary source of calcium, but it can be difficult to digest. Enter tahini: just 35 grams (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) can contain almost 35% of your recommended daily calcium intake.
It’s not likely that you’ll eat 2 1/2 tablespoons of tahini everyday, but it’s a versatile enough ingredient that you can happily work it into your diet.
Our new favorite way to enjoy tahini is to combine it with fresh lemon juice, finely minced garlic, salt and, if necessary (to achieve desired consistency) water and drizzle the mixture on top of simple roast veggies or braised or quick sautéed greens. You can also:
If you want to absolutely maximize tahini’s nutritional value, look for raw tahini made from unhulled seeds. Roasting sesame seeds (as opposed to using them raw) may reduce the quality of the seeds’ omega-3 content. And unhulled seeds contain more calcium than their hulled counterparts. It may not be easy to determine how your tahini is made, as not all brands specify on the package. Don’t let this stop you. Tahini is worth the purchase no matter what. You’ll still reap great nutritional benefits and it’s delicious to boot.
If you make tahini at home, the recipe will likely suggest that you roast the sesame seeds. I do this, even knowing that raw seeds are better. I simply prefer the flavor. If you dig tahini made with raw seeds, all the better! If not and you are so inclined, you can combine tahinis made with raw and toasted seeds to get the best of both. I’ve got to admit, though, doing so seems like a lot of work.
Give a shout if you have other suggested uses for tahini. I’m all about working this lovely ingredient into our diet as much as possible. Plus, it comes in a big ol’ jar. We need to help each other use up every last drop!
* Note: Sesame seeds are not tree nuts, but the common wisdom is that folks with nut allergies should also stay away from sesame seeds, which may have some proteins in common with tree nuts. Like tree nut butters, tahini has high nutritional quality and is a great food for little ones for whom it is safe. If you’re concerned that your child may be allergic to sesame seeds, please read more on how to best introduce high allergen foods and, most importantly, consult your pediatrician.
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