Tahini helps marinade the shrimp and creates the foundation for the dipping sauce.
Tahini is having a moment.
And it’s about time.
If you love peanut butter, almond butter or any other nut butter, you will easily fall for its cousin, tahini, which is essentially a form of sesame butter. Raw or toasted sesame seeds are ground, releasing their oil, and creating a creamy, thick, velvety, and spoonable sauce redolent of pure sweet nuttiness.
It’s what gives hummus its unmistakable lushness. It’s what fortifies so many great Middle Eastern dressings and spreads. And it’s what perks up palates with interest anew after tiredness sets in from same ol’, same ol’ peanut butter.
Restaurateur Rawia Bishara calls it one of her favorite pantry items. She says she could devote an entire book to it. She hasn’t gone that far, but she does include quite a few recipes using the sesame paste in her new cookbook, “Levant: New Middle Eastern Cooking From Tanoreen” (Kyle), of which I received a review copy.
Tuck into this novel version of grits.
Let it soak, let it soak, let it soak.
Yes, that’s me taking liberties with the refrain from a certain Christmas song that we’ll all be hearing on repeat soon enough.
But it’s also the mantra that Chef Josef Centeno adheres to when it comes to making grits.
San Antonio-raised Centeno is chef-owner of six Los Angeles-area establishments: Baco Mercat, Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston, Ledlow, P.Y.T, and Penny-Ante Provisions catering. Before opening those, he worked at Daniel in New York, and was chef de cuisine at Manresa in Los Gatos.
I zeroed in on his “Creamy Grits with Blistered Tomatoes, Pickled Serrano Chiles, and Sunflower-Miso Tahini” recipe when I received a review copy of his new cookbook.
“Baco: Vivid Recipes From the Heart of Los Angeles” (Chronicle Books) is by Centeno and Betty Hallock, former deputy food editor of the Los Angeles Times.
The cookbook showcases his imaginative dishes that reflect Los Angeles’ dynamic, exciting food scene today. His dishes are inventive — not in the molecular, shake-your-head kind of way — but in the clash of ingredients and flavors that somehow make potent magic together.
Tender, buttery shortbread made with tahini.
We use tahini liberally in hummus and salad dressings.
But why not take it for a spin in a sweet preparation?
After all, peanut butter swings both ways, in sweet and in savory dishes. With tahini being ground up sesame seeds, it has a beguiling nuttiness that also makes it quite versatile.
“Tahini Shortbread Cookies” does it justice in sandy, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery cookies that have the merest whisper of sweetness.
The recipe is from “Soframiz” (Ten Speed Press, 2016) by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick of Sofra Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge, MA. Sortun, a James Beard “Best Chef in the Northeast” for Oleana restaurant in Cambridge, and Kilpatrick, who was named “Best Pastry Chef” by Boston magazine, showcase 100 recipes of both sweet and savory offerings at their popular modern Middle Eastern cafe.