Category Archives: MIddle Eastern

ho-hummus: journeying beyond the chickpea

You’re probably familiar with hummus – the smashed chickpea spread/dip often served with pita bread or falafel or, if you’re my friends, tortilla chips. You can always rely on the comforting presence of a plastic container of hummus nestled between the bowls of salsa and guacamole at parties around here. And if you’ve had hummus, you’ve eaten tahini which is an essential ingredient in hummus. Tahini is a ground paste of sesame seeds and oil used in a lot of Middle Eastern cooking.

I’m totally down with hummus, of course, but I love the flavor of tahini, and it comes through more clearly when mixed into a thing known as “tahini sauce”. Tahini sauce includes a lot of the same ingredients as hummus but has nothing to do with chickpeas and is often thinner – really more of a “sauce” (as the name implies) than a “spread” or “dip”. It’s a mildly bitter, garlicky sauce that’s fantastic with lamb and falafel or drizzled over a pita loaded with fresh, crunchy veggies – cucumber, red bell pepper, sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, bitter leafy greens. The flavors of garlic and sesame really shine when they don’t have to compete with overbearing chickpeas demanding all the glory.

Tahini Sauce
Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
I love dipping carrots into this sauce. I think I’d love dipping just about anything into this sauce.

2 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 tspn fine sea salt (or finely minced and pressed with a knife to vaguely release oils if mashing garlic to a paste is beyond your abilities the way it’s apparently beyond mine)
1/2 cup tahini, stirred well
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Stir all ingredients until well-combined. Serve at room temperature.