In a recent visit, my mother prepared tahini for us, and I wrote about it on my food blog, The Feast Before Us. Here is my mother’s recipe, with directions and even a demonstration:
This particular recipe, the one for tahini, has turned out to be a very popular blog post, but it occurs to me that many people may not know how to get the tahini paste that is the central ingredient of the tahini my mother prepared.
This is the kind my mother uses: Joyva Tahini. Notice that it is labeled “Sesame Tahini” in big letters, and then there is an explanation in smaller letters: “creamy puree of sesame seeds.”
You might be asking yourself at this point why the word “sesame” is repeated twice here. Isn’t that redundant? Isn’t all tahini made of sesame seeds? Well, for those of us who aren’t familiar with any other kind, that’s the only tahini we have heard of, and so we just naturally assume that. But etymologically speaking, tahini comes from a semitic root ( in Hebrew טחן) meaning “to grind”. Tahini (or Hebrew טחינה) is a word for the end product of grinding. It really describes the “puree” part of the equation, and not what precisely has been ground. To make it absolutely clear to purchasers what this product consists of, the Joyva company added the adjective “sesame” to modify the noun “tahini.”
The 15 ounce can of Sesame Tahini contains no artificial ingredients and no additives. That means it is pure sesame, nothing at all added, not even water. This has led some people, who think of ”tahini” as that dip we eat at parties or the thing you add to garbanzo bean puree to make humus, to become very confused. This is an ingredient for a sesame based dish. It is not the dish itself.
You can order this product at bulk and get three fifteen ounce cans for $32.78, which is not a bad deal at all.
I have read some of the reviews for this product on Amazon, and they range from five stars to one star. The one star reviewers obviously did not realize that this is not the prepared tahini dish they were getting. They tried to use it undiluted, and so they ended up saying things such as this: “it just doesn’t taste right no matter how much you stir it or try to spice it up.” Before you spice it up, you need to water it down! The first thing you do is to dilute it! It takes about as much water as it does sesame paste to make good tahini. Just follow my mother’s directions.
If we think of the tahini as just an ingredient, we find that it has any number of possible uses. This is an excellent product that can be mixed with other elements to make many, many other dishes. One of my favorites is halvah, a sweet treat that can be made of sesame paste. Here is a recipe for halvah that I found online:
At the very beginning of the recipe the author writes: “Halvah can refer to a number of different sweets, but this particular version is based on tahini, a sesame paste.” Those of us who have only ever had sesame halvah think that halvah means a sesame treat. But those who are really in the know understand that halvah just means a kind of sweet. The issue is the same with the word tahini — it refers to something that has been ground, but the kind we are familiar with is made of sesame. That is because sesame is the best possible ingredient used in the east since ancient times. Sesame brings joy!