I can live without wheat, I can live without sugar, I can definitely live without processed food. But there is one food group I am particularly attached to - Fats! Obsessed with flavorful food as I am, I can’t give up this smooth, rich deliciousness. Back in the day, I used to feel very guilty about that, but not anymore. My newly embraced diet actually advocates using GOOD fats. Yay!
A common adage among chefs is that “fat is flavor”. Fats imbue our food with fullness and depth of flavor, smoothness and structure. And it’s not just their richness: fats facilitate the transition of fat-soluble flavor molecules through the food. That’s why low-fat food sometimes tastes dull and one dimensional.
So go for it and enjoy those fats (in moderation of course). There are many delicious choices out there but here I’d like to highlight one that is lesser known and under appreciated: tahini (sesame seed paste).
In its true form, tahini is white and delicate, versatile and a great way to boost your food with health and deliciousness. Your best bet to find a good tahini is Middle Eastern and Halal groceries. Make sure it is made in the Middle East. Some Indian groceries carry it too. I hate to be snobbish but most of the stuff at health food stores just doesn’t cut it flavor-wise and texture-wise. Good tahini is unified, creamy and should not stick to the roof of your mouth.
Once you discover real good tahini, you’ll find yourself drizzling it everywhere, from vegetables to fish to lamb. Even on desserts - you can mix it with pomegranate molasses, raw honey or even chocolate sauce. For a seasonal treat, try it on cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower until sweetly caramelized and then serve it warm, cloaked with slightly lemony, faintly bitter tahini sauce.
Serendipitously, when I sat down to write the recipe this morning my facebook timeline flashed a beautiful picture of a cauliflower. It was harvested just this morning at Great Road Farm. Farmer Steve Tomlinson harvested, photographed and graciously shared. According to Steve, the farm’s cauliflower is not available for retail right now. It is waiting, like the rest of us, for Agricola to open.
A good cauliflower of any color should be firm and tight with no blemishes.
1 large head cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat the oven to 400F . Break the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Toss with oil and a pinch of salt, spread on an oven tray.
Roast on the upper shelf of the oven until it begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Take out the pan and turn the cauliflower over, so the other side gets brown, too. This will take about 20 more minutes. In the meantime make the sauce.
When the cauliflower is nice and roasted, remove from oven and set aside for about 5 minutes, then gently fold in the tahini.
For some mysterious reason tahini sauce tastes even better when made with a wooden spoon.
1 garlic clove, mashed,
1 cup tahini (sesame seeds paste)
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water
1 teaspoon salt
In a glass or ceramic bowl, mix tahini, garlic and salt with a wooden spoon. Gradually add lemon juice and keep mixing. At first the mixture will harden and look like cement. Don’t be alarmed, just keep adding water gradually, and watch it becoming silky smooth. If the sauce appears thick, add a little more water for a runnier sauce, but no more than 1 cup.
Gently fold the cauliflower into the tahini bowl, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. You may also want to add more lemon juice.
Garnishes are practically endless: roasted sesame seeds, roasted whole cumin seeds, pomegranate seeds, chopped fresh herbs, pine nuts, walnuts, pomegranate molasses...