Tahini, the main ingredient in sesame halva, can be mixed with countless other flavors.
Recently, a good friend of mine invited me over for breakfast. She knows me well, so she didn’t omit any of the foods I love to eat in an Israeli breakfast: shakshuka, a good white cheese, Arab salad, homemade bread… There was also a uniquely colored that I had never before laid eyes on.
“Mmmmm,” I thought, “it’s really hard to surprise me, and yet… This is a food I’ve never tasted.”
My friend asked me to guess the identity of the special spread. It had the taste of beet — that’s for sure — but there was something else. Something nutty and creamy. The combination of the beet with that mysterious ingredient was really fabulous.
A moment before I was about to give up, I suddenly understood: “It’s tahini with beet!” I shouted. My good friend smiled and confirmed my hunch. To make this purple concoction, she had simply added some roasted ground beet to the traditional tahini paste, she said.
Tahini for me and for many Israelis is a basic ingredient, a companion for almost every type of meal. I start my day with tahini. Along with my morning cup of coffee, I eat a teaspoon of raw tahini (made from 100% sesame) mixed with a teaspoon full of silan (date honey), and I meet tahini again and again during my day in different foods: salad dressings, dips, spreads and many other things. It’s nutritious, too — full of vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fats.
But my friend’s creative idea ignited in me a desire to take raw tahini on some new adventures, beyond the familiar realm of tahini mixed into hummus.
So I started to test, taste and explore. I ended up using more than 20 pounds of raw tahini in my experiments. (Don’t worry, I shared it all with family and friends.) I’m proud to say I’ve come up with 50 shades of tahini: 50 ways to use this delightful food in surprising ways, from peanut butter tahini to pumpkin ginger tahini to chocolate-pistachio tahini. (A few of those recipes are here.)
You can experiment too. Just take some quality tahini made from pure sesame seed, add the one ingredient that really thrills you, and see what happens. Don’t settle for regular old beige tahini any longer. Be creative!
Amalia Katz-Magen is an Israeli entrepreneur and a foodie with a passion for Middle Eastern cuisine. Amalia founded Sesame Story Shop, an online Mediterranean food marketplace, in 2014.