Tahini. You know. That special sesame treat that adds nuttiness to hummus, sauce to falafel wraps, and … um … hm. What else do you do with it again?
Thus was, until recently, my thought process. Tahini–ground sesame seeds and, usually, nothing else added in–has been one of those ingredients, like miso and capers, that enters the kitchen for a special recipe, then languishes in the back of the fridge, edging gradually towards an expiry date while I skirt around it for more familiar ingredients.
Which is pretty lame. ‘Familiar’ is utterly a matter of perspective, positioning, culture, and education. I’m lost without a bundle of thyme on hand at all (t.hee) thymes, but I’m sure someone out there has had it rot on their hands for want of usage ideas. I feel sad when my whole allspice stores begin to wane, but somewhere, in someone else’s cupboard, there’s a stash quietly fading away, unloved and unused. And I do enjoy learning about new-to-me ingredients. Tahini has been my latest project.
Turns out, it’s a flexible little buddy. Hearty, earthy, creamy, and fatty, I’ve tried combining with miso, or fresh squeezed orange juice, or both, for an oil-free (but certainly not fat-free) salad dressing. And I’ve long found it a handy thickener for battered dishes: combine tahini garlic, flour, corn starch, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and a bit of water for a savoury tofu coating, or try tahini, flour, corn starch, marzipan and soymilk for a french toast batter.
Gaining (current) first place status in my heart, though, is tahini cookies. Like peanut butter cookies, only better.
Perhaps that’s not fair. Peanut butter is fine. Standard peanut butter isn’t my first choice–peanuts are often heavily exposed to pesticides, and mainstream brands can carry a lot of salt, sugar, and pointless palm oil or hydrogenated vegetable oil. (Really? Because you need to add fat to pureed nuts? Have these manufacturers met nuts?) There are some decent brands that are organic, and contain nothing but peanuts. And peanuts are rich in manganese, vitamin B3, folate, copper, and protein. And peanut butter cookies–specifically the peanut butter and jelly cookies from The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes For Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion by Coleen Patrick-Goudreau–are really quite lovely.
But I have to put in a good word for tahini cookies. Tahini provides iron, calcium, zinc, and tastiness. These cookies basically are Patrick-Goudreau’s peanut butter and jelly cookies, minus the jelly, subbing tahini for peanut butter, and with the directions paraphrased but essentially the same. The original recipe doesn’t call for salt, but I find a tiny amount gives a nice bit of savoury sass.
1/3 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup tahini
2 Tbsp almond or soy milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fresh-ground salt (I don’t actually measure, but grind in three or four turns of salt from the grinder)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cream Earth Balance, sugar, tahini, almond/soy milk, and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix until combined.
5. Roll into balls (about 1 1/2 inch large).
6. Press down with a fork to flatten slightly.
7. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and medium brown on the bottom.
8. Let cool on pan for a couple of minutes.
9. Move to a cooling rack and chow on down.
I find these cookies rich and mild–almost like sugar cookies, but a bit more hearty, and softer than shortbread. I prefer to bake for closer to 7 minutes, for a softer, more tender cookie, but if you like the crunch, by all means, go for 10.