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In the world of recipe writing, it's generally not a good idea to introduce a dish by saying it stars an ingredient you don't particularly like. But that's what I'm going to do, and the ingredient for me is tahini. I don't hate it exactly, I just tend not to be too fond of it most of the time. And yet I'm also a believer that everything has its place and, when approached with skill and care, can win even the greatest skeptic over.*
* Related to this is my "try it at least five, preferably 10, and possibly endless times" rule, which states that you have to force yourself to eat a food you dislike no fewer than five times, and—if you can stomach it—as many times as it takes until you find something to like about it. I've learned to love a lot of things this way...except for licorice.
In the case of tahini, my biggest issue is that its flavor often overpowers whatever it's served with. I have nothing against a roasted sesame flavor in and of itself (in fact, I love it), but I do have something against carpet-bombing my food with it. The key then, at least for me, is to be sparing. Tahini's flavor is strong and will carry through, even in relatively small amounts.
That's what I did with this simple carrot side dish, part of our Easiest Summer Ever recipe series, featuring simple, seasonal recipes that use no more than four main ingredients (excluding pantry staples such as salt and olive oil).
To make it, I start with beautiful carrots from the farmers market. It's easy to look past the carrots when the market stands are full of tomatoes, berries, and corn, but carrots are fresh from the fields now too and deserve a place at the summertime table. For this dish, I used young ones that I split in half or cooked whole (when they were small enough), but you can make it with carrots of any size—just cut them into spears about 1/2 inch thick before cooking.
I blanch them in salted water until tender-crisp, just to take the raw edge off but not soften them completely. As soon as they're done, I shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. Then I whip up a simple vinaigrette using olive oil, lemon juice and some zest from the lemon, minced cilantro, grated ginger, and, yes, just a couple teaspoons of tahini. Toss the carrots in it and you're all set.
It's a minimal amount of tahini, but you absolutely taste it—and it tastes great. Even I think so, and that's saying a lot.
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