Raw Tahini and prepared tahini are a little bit different from one another. In Middle Eastern restaurants you will often see prepared tahini, creamy, thick and beige in color, served on it’s own as a dipping sauce paired with warm, fluffy pita. Often it is drizzled over shawarma and falafel or a few spoonfuls may be served on a bed of freshly made hummus.
Raw tahini, simply made of ground sesame seeds, is a loose, grayish brown liquid condiment that mostly resembles freshly made nut butter, but way thinner. When it sits, the oils separate from the solids so it must be stirred well before using. It can also go rancid as oils, seeds and nuts do, so definitely smell and taste it for freshness.
Tahini is exceptionally flavorful and while it is usually seen in savory middle eastern foods such as Babaganoush, it can also be used for example in tuna fish salad instead of mayonnaise, or in sweet preparations such as Tahini cookies. You can even mix it with a bit of honey, date syrup or agave and spread on a piece of toast along with some sliced bananas.
The recipe below is for my mother’s prepared tahini sauce. It’s thick, creamy and super flavorful. Give it a try. Just remember to work it like you would a vinaigrette, pouring the water in and stirring, little by little. You can make the tahini and serve it fresh or prepare it up to two days ahead. For the purposes of texture, I think it’s best made by hand as my mother does, but you can also use a food processor or blender.
Serving Size: About 1 cup
½ cup raw tahini
1 clove garlic, minced or pureed on a microplane
1-2 lemons juiced
Fine sea salt, to taste
Variation: Puree the sauce with green herbs such as parsely and cilantro to make a green herb tahini that is wonderful served with poultry, beef and lamb.
In a small bowl, combine the tahini, garlic and add the juice from one lemon. Stir very well. Prepare a small cup with 4-6 tbsp. tepid water. Make sure it’s not too cold.
Very slowly, add a bit of the water and stir the mixture vigorously with a fork. The consistency will change dramatically, but keep working with it. Continue to add the water little by little, stirring out all the little lumps until the mixture is light in color and very creamy. Season to taste with salt and a little more lemon juice if needed. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two days.