Thursday, September 6, 2012

DYI tahini

Say you are in some godforsaken place that doesn't have a can of tahini on the shelf. (Yes, such places exist.) Here's how to make it yourself, from Jane Brody:


1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon oil
2 tablespoons water

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

Note: You can grow your own sesame; you can see it in the garden at Monticello. It does need good drainage, which may be hard to come by in clay soils. You can order seed from Sesaco Corp. (800-527-1024)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tahini addendum - baba ghanoush

Another good use for tahini is in baba ghanoush. An eggplant appeared in our bounty basket from Relay Foods last week, and although I was tempted just to grill the slices, baba ghanoush is more appealing and keeps longer in the refrigerator.

Baba Ghanoush
adapted from "Jane Brody's Good Food Cookbook" (Norton, 1985, 728 pages)

1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
(if you want a more intensively lemon-flavored dip, add a slice of preserved lemon)
1 large clove garlic
¼ cup onion, chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Take the green top off the eggplant, cut it in half and slice it into 1-inch half rounds. Salt with kosher salt and let stand for 45 minutes to an hour. Wipe off the moisture and the salt. Place eggplant slices on oiled cookie sheet.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 20 minutes, turning halfway.
When cooled, remove the flesh from the eggplant, discarding skin (and seeds, if you want it very smooth. I kind of like the seeds).
Blend ingredients 3-5 in a food processor. Add eggplant. Pulse until well-blended.
Transfer to a small bowl and garnish with parsley. Cover and chill. Serve with pita quarters, or as a dip with vegetables.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We want steak!

I don't get the Food Channel, mostly because it's so mesmerizing that I would never be able to peel myself away from the TV to cook or write. But it has heightened awareness among a vast swath of Americans that there's something more to fine dining than just steak and potatoes.

Or has it?

According to a recent survey conducted by food industry think tank Culinary Visions Panel, more people would play it safe and order a steak.

In the study, Chicago-based Culinary Visions asked more than 200 people to rate the "healthfulness" of four entrees, then rate how likely they would be to order these items in a casual dining restaurant. Although the last three got high healthfulness marks, the first item was the most ordered.

  • Steak with Salsa Verde & Roasted Squash—Grilled 5 oz. grass-fed beef top sirloin served with roasted delicata squash and arugula salsa verde. (42 percent would order)
  • Seafood & Bean Stew—Clams, calamari and chorizo served in a rich thyme-infused broth of cannellini beans and kale” (19 percent would order)
  • Braised Baby Lamb Shank with Olives, Figs and Fennel—Grass-fed baby lamb shanks brained with orange, wine and tomato, finished with kalamata olives and black mission figs, served with braised fennel and a minted faro salad on the side” (20 percent would order)
  • Rabbit Ragu with Polenta & Rapini—Slow-braised rabbit served over soft polenta with a side of rapini and lemon (19 percent would order).

Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions Panel also noted, “Women were more likely to order (the steak option) than the men.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Off to tahini

Every health-conscious food lover probably has made hummus from scratch. A can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, a quarter cup of tahini and some sautéed garlic and onion, a little lemon juice, process until smooth… ta-da! Fresh hummus in an amount that you can finish off quickly, for a fraction of the price of the fancy processed brands.

But what to do with the rest of that can of tahini? It's made of sesame seeds, and as we know, sesame seeds go rancid in record time.

Fear not the tahini. With a little forethought, it can be swirled into many other uses besides hummus and baba ghanoush. Here are some ways to use tahini:

  • Whisk it with lemon juice until slightly thinned for an excellent sauce for fish.
  • Thin it with some more lemon juice and water, add a little salt for a low-fat salad dressing.
  • Cook it with sugar to make halva, a Middle Eastern treat.
  • Process with garlic, basil and Parmesan for a pesto; thin with a little pasta water before tossing it with your noodles.
  • Add a little to any recipe that could use a nutty note.