No secret ingredient to date has offered the opportunities of the sesame seed. It is a globetrotter, appearing on hamburger buns in California and bagels in New York. From halvah in North Africa to oil in India. In dim sum in China; on sushi in Japan. Its applications are sweet and savory. It is a ubiquitous culinary confetti, nutty and fragrant and substantial. Comfort food, in a way, to the whole world.
From a gastronomic perspective, sesame also comes in a variety of preparations. First, raw and white. Then white and toasted. Black sesame seeds are the mysterious brunette to the more common blond. Sesame paste, known as tahini, is found in jars in raw and toasted varieties. And sesame oil, too, comes in raw and toasted iterations. And while raw sesame products are known for their healthy properties, the toasted variations recall that sensory nuttiness and exotic fragrance for which the seeds have become world famous.
For our first foray into sesame, I start in a place where sesame has existed ever so long in unremarked silence: hummus. When we think hummus, we think chickpeas and garlic and olive oil and lemon. Easier to forget is tahini—I have, in fact, been guilty of omitting it and wondering what I had done wrong. I support many shortcuts from the grocery store, but homemade hummus is worth the extra five seconds of effort. So much more fragrant and velvety. For this version, I turn up the sesame volume, incorporating whole freshly toasted white sesame seeds, toasted sesame tahini, and toasted sesame oil to accompany the usual suspects. The result is thick like chickpea mousse, redolent of exotic, fragrant sesame. I serve it with homemade whole wheat pita chips—and whisper, "Open sesame."
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.
- 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
- 1 pound, 13 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup sesame tahini
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons water
- 4 whole wheat pitas, cut into eighths
- Olive oil for drizzling
In a small sauté pan, toast the sesame seeds, over medium heat, turning very often for 30 seconds. Remove to a bowl to cool.
Add all the ingredients, including the sesame seeds (reserving a few for garnish), to the food processor except the water. Puree until very smooth. Add the water as needed to obtain the smooth, thick, desired texture.
Top with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and any remaining toasted sesame seeds.
Whole Wheat Pita Chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lay the pita wedges out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Toss to coat.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden and crisp. Serve with Super Sesame Hummus.