If you're a fan of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, you're probably familiar with tahini. If not, meet your new favorite condiment.
Tahini is a paste essentially made from two ingredients: ground sesame seeds and oil. Some chefs may add salt and other spices, but at its core, tahini is a simple concoction that has a wide range of scrumptious applications.
Thanks to farmers' markets, small-batch tahini makers have been able to pop up around the country and thrive. In Philadelphia, for example, I often see the familiar faces of the ladies from Soom at food-related events all over the region. If you find a tahini purveyor at your neighborhood farmers' market, do yourself a favor and pick up a jar.
How to choose it
Before you buy a jar (or can) of tahini, double check that the ingredient list doesn't include additives or preservatives.Chances are that whatever you pick up at the farmers' market is a safe bet, but it doesn't hurt to ask your vendor.
How to use it
Tahini is best known as an ingredient in hummus, but its uses don't end there. Try it as a base for salad dressing and pesto. If you prefer sweet to savory, Soom makes a chocolate variation that, when spread on warm toast and topped with bananas, makes me swoon. You can also use tahini to add creaminess to baked goods, like these heavenly, gooey vegan brownies.
How to store it
Once you open your jar, store it in the fridge. It'll last for months, if not years. The oil will likely rise to the top while it sits, so give it a good stir before you use it.