My latest culinary experiment — er, endeavor — has been making my own hummus at home. Every recipe is different, but the majority of them seem to agree on one vital component. That’s tahini, a paste of ground sesame seeds. So when I set about my journey to hummus-town, I scoured the sizable international and natural foods sections of my neighborhood super-colossal mega-grocer.
What I found nearly drove me back into the creamy, familiar arms of Athenos and Sabra. Tahini is expensive stuff! I was interested in a decent size bottle because, hey, I like hummus. Turns out those bottles are in the “entree at Red Lobster” vicinity. So after researching a couple recipes, and a little trial and error, I found a path to easy — and best of all, cheap — tahini.
It’s seeds and oil.
Yeah, rocket science, I know. I found the best recipe for tahini comes right off the bag of sesame seeds itself! My uber-mart carries Bob’s Red Mill products in its natural food section, and this recipe was right on the label. I put it together similarly, but perhaps a little more loosey-goosey than prescribed, so I’ve denoted my process below. I was able to snap up a pound of Bob’s Red Mill white sesame seeds — you know, those teeny-weeny little white seeds on your Big Mac — for about $3.50. That’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the $10-12 I was finding on the shelf.
Extra virgin olive oil comes in many varieties, brands and prices. If you’re like me and want to go cheap, knock yourself out. If you want to go pricey, that’s cool too. I think a nice middle ground is the big jug of organic stuff from CostCo. We’ll need a bit more than a drizzle of it, so bear that in mind.
One batch of tahini renders about two-and-a-half cups, so I store mine in the tall, freezable wide-mouth Mason jars which is conveniently just a tad bigger than that. I always have a bunch of those around because that size is also perfect for my favorite knockoff Chili’s salsa recipe. I haven’t found a great answer as to how long you can store this stuff. Some commercial jars I’ve seen say it’s more or less shelf stable, whereas others say to refrigerate. I’d err on the side of caution and go to the fridge with it. It also firms up the tahini nicely, which comes together very loose at first. I find it’s easier to work with cold and firm, because I use a plunger-style measuring cup to dose it out in my hummus recipe.
- 1 pound white sesame seeds
- ¾ cup olive oil (I use EVOO)
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour the sesame seeds on a sheet pan and lightly shake to evenly distribute them. Use a sheet pan with a lip around the edge, so your seeds don't go everywhere. They're slippery little buggers.
- Toast the sesame seeds in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes to toast them evenly. Don't get them too brown. I'd use a middle rack and go by color. If you use a lower rack, they'll toast quicker but will likely burn.
- Take the seeds out when they're slightly golden in color and let cool, about 20 minutes. Not sure why, but the original recipe makes a point of it. Enjoy the nutty smell in your kitchen in the meantime.
- When cooled, put the sesame seeds into a food processor, close it up and turn it on. Through the top, drizzle in the ¾ cup of olive oil slowly. It will start coming together into a paste.
- Whizz it up for about two minutes or until it appears smooth to your liking, stopping to scrape down the bowl occasionally so it's all nice and uniform. Either my food processor sucks, or it won't blend completely and totally smooth. It will still have some seedy texture to it (think a grainy brown mustard more than peanut butter). It will probably be loose at first, akin to a melted milkshake more than a paste.
- Seal it up in your container. Put a layer of plastic wrap over it before lidding it up if you feel the inner need to do such things. I did, for some reason, but I'm not a food scientist. Put in your fridge to chill. It will thicken up when refrigerated. Depending on your recipe, it'll make between 5 and 9 batches of hummus. No idea if it's freezable, but I'd love to know if you try it sometime.