Drawing a Line

November 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

I think I might be ruined. Because I walk through the aisles of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, eyeing various products while thinking to myself, I can make that at home.

American food culture insists upon convenience. I see this when I go grocery shopping. Ready-made items constitute the bulk of most shops’  inventories. I watch people pay a lot for foods that are simple and inexpensive to recreate.

I suppose I’ve become a little more sensitive to all of this since I wrapped up my stint at a self-sufficient farmstead in Denmark in mid-August. My hosts milled their own flour with grains they harvested themselves. They raised chickens for their eggs and pigs for slaughter. They kept a cow so they make their own dairy products. They grew most of their own fruits and vegetables. They foraged. They dried their own spices. They made gallons of jam and syrup.

Unsurprisingly, everything my hosts did or discussed concerned their farm.

I’m grateful to have experienced a lifestyle so different from my own. However, it didn’t take long for me to decide that total self-sufficiency wasn’t what I was after. I’ve chosen to make good, wholesome foods a priority in my life. But I don’t want my entire life to revolve around food. Occasionally, I’m happy to hand off food preparation responsibilities to someone else.

I find it empowering to have at least some control over what goes into my food and to know that I can make things one normally buys for a fraction of the cost. Like nut butters.

A jar of tahini at my nearest Whole Foods costs eight dollars. A pound of unhulled sesame seeds, bought in bulk, costs around two or three dollars.

I immediately set out to make my own tahini. I originally followed this recipe, which calls for ample amounts of oil and water. The taste was just OK. I couldn’t get over the texture–a greasy, gritty, clumpy mess.

I stripped it down for the second attempt.  I simply toasted the sesame seeds in the oven, and blended them in the food processor. I allowed the sesame seeds’ natural oils to reveal themselves rather than drown them in water and fat like I did for my first attempt.

I ended up with smooth, creamy sesame butter. The foundation for tahini. I’ve found many uses for it throughout the week.  Tahini dressings, obviously. For a basic, all-purpose savory dressing, thin with a couple tablespoons each of warm water, olive oil, lemon juice (throw in some zest for an extra punch). Add crushed garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Mix. Add water and olive oil until you’ve achieved a runny, soupy consistency. For a sweeter version, omit the garlic and stir in a teaspoon or two of honey, agave, or maple syrup.

Or just eat the sesame butter spread on toast or rice cakes. My new favorite tea time treat consists of a slice of bread, homemade, of course, a smear of sesame butter and a drizzle of honey.

A quick word on sesame seeds. Hulled or unhulled works here. I prefer the unhulled variety for its more robust flavor and higher nutritive properties.

Sesame Butter

Yields anywhere from .75-1.5 cups, though you can certainly adjust the amount to meet your needs

-2-3 cups unhulled or hulled sesame seeds

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the sesame seeds into a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

-Toast seeds in the oven until they appear a couple of shades darker and are highly fragrant. This will take anywhere from 7-12 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for a few minutes.

-Grind the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor. First, they’ll look quite course. Scrape the sides of the food processor and continue until the sesame seeds are completely blended. Scrape the sides again and continue until you have a nice, spreadable paste. It takes a while for this to happen. Be patient!

-Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. (Better yet, find a cute glass jar to use for storage.) It should keep for at least two weeks.


§ One Response to Drawing a Line

  • Jenn says:

    I’m so glad you shared this! I have been learning to make all my own basics, and I will definitely be adding this to the list.

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