Have you ever wondered what gives Middle Eastern dips like baba ghanouj (eggplant dip) and hummus (chickpea dip) their wonderfully rich and creamy qualities? The answer is tahini, a paste made of ground sesame seeds. It has a rich, nutty flavor that helps to amplify the flavors of other foods. Full of B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and iron, it’s also good for you. Get to know tahini by trying it in the hummus recipe Hummus with Mellow Garlic & Cumin or or in the Triple-Sesame Marinated Chicken recipe.
What and where to buy: Imported and domestic tahini is sold in cans and jars at natural-foods stores and some supermarkets (look in the international or natural-foods section or next to the peanut butter). A good domestic brand to look for is Joyva, made in Brooklyn, New York. If you can’t find tahini locally, try Adriana’s Caravan (www.adrianascaravan.com; 800-316-0820).
How to store it: Tahini keeps almost indefinitely when stored in a cool, dark cupboard. It doesn’t require refrigeration (sesame oil, unlike other nut oils, is high in antioxidants), although you can keep it in the fridge if you like (just let it return to room temperature before using). Because it contains no emulsifiers, the sesame oil tends to separate from the solids over time, but it will remix on its own if you turn the can or jar upside down about 30 minutes before you plan to use it.