14 Jun 2006

Seeds - Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds, tiny flat seeds, have been known for over 5000 years in the Middle East. They were probably the first condiment and their oil has also been used for thousands of years.

Many Middle Eastern traditional dishes contain the seeds. Tahini, a smooth, creamy paste made of toasted, ground, hulled sesame seeds, Hummus, an appetizer made of ground chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, salt and tahini, Baba Ghanoush, a dish of roasted eggplant seasoned with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and the sweetmeat Halva.

Nutritionally sesame seeds are excellent in a vegan diet being 25% protein (compared with 13% in eggs) and rich in the essential amino acids methionine and tryptophan which are often lacking in plant proteins. An excellent source of vitamin B1 and E, calcium (when unhulled), manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and zinc. They also contain sasamin and sesamolin which are unique fibres called lignans known to reduce cholesterol levels and protect the liver.

Healthwise, on top of the benefits of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids they relieve constipation and remove worms from the intestinal tract. They are an aid to digestion, stimulate blood circulation, and benefit the nervous system. Note that because of their and other nuts high oil content, they should be eaten in moderation.

Sesame seeds turn rancid quickly, so purchase as fresh as possible and store them away from light and heat, but preferably refrigerate.

One way to use them is to toast them and sprinkle them over vegetables, noodles, eggplant dishes, stir fries, bread doughs and cookies before baking, and over fruit and nut confections. Toast by putting the seeds on a ungreased pan in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times. They can also be included untoasted in baked goods or sprinkled on top of them.

Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste)

2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup warm water

Blend sesame seeds in a blender and grind until smooth. Add sesame oil, salt, and then slowly add 1/4 cup of water while blending. Blend until completely smooth. Yield: 1/2 cup

Sesame Butter

1/4 cup vegan margerine
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire Sauce (anchovy-free)
1/2 tsp garlic salt or granules
1 tbsp toasted sesame seed

Mix all ingredients together. Try spooned over veggie burgers or steamed asparagus.

Gomasio (Oriental Salt)
Tastier than salt and cuts down on sodium intake.

4 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt

Toast seeds in a dry skillet until they just begin to color. Use low heat, watch carefully so they don't bun and shake the skillet often. While hot, grind in a blender or pestle and mortar. When crushed, add salt and process or pound a few seconds longer to coat salt with oil from the seeds. Makes 1/4 cup.


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