Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.
The sesame seed paste called “tahini” originated in Persia, and the earliest mention of the now-trendy ingredient was in a 13th century recipe for hummus, which is how most Americans eat tahini today. But the peanut butter-adjacent ingredient’s nutty flavor works in everything from cookies to oatmeal to meatballs. My favorite use is in this simple sauce.
Sometimes called tahini dressing, it’s most often served with falafel—fried chickpea fritters. Across the Middle East, similar sauces may be spooned over ful, a stewed fava bean dish, or used as a dip for flatbread. It’s particularly good with grilled or roasted vegetables, especially when teamed up with spicy green sauce. And it makes a great dip for chips.
A surprising bit of food chemistry involving the hydrophilic properties of carbohydrate molecules happens when you stir a little cold water into tahini: It gets thicker as the water-loving carbs in the sesame seeds latch onto the liquid. Add a bit more water and the tahini eventually gets runnier. This basic sauce is endlessly adaptable. Combine spices like cumin, coriander and chile powder for even more flavor, or thin it down with more olive oil and vinegar to make a pourable dressing.
Tahini Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup water*
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped*
1 tablespoon apple cider or wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
Salt to taste
Fresh mint, parsley, cilantro, or other herbs to garnish
*If you want a thinner, more pourable sauce, add more water a tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency; substitute 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
Mix the tahini and water together in a bowl until the water has been completely absorbed and the tahini has thickened. Stir in the garlic, vinegar and olive oil, then add yogurt and stir until blended.
Transfer to a bowl or platter that works with whatever you’re dipping, and sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs if desired. It keeps refrigerated for a week or so.