The eastern shores of the Mediterranean held much romantic mysticism with tales of Ali Baba, his forth thieves
and their term, “Open sesame.” It first appeared in the Arabian book, “The Thousand and One Nights.” The seeds, themselves were fast openers, for they have an ability, once ripe, to pop out of their pod at the slightest touch. Sesame seeds have been in demand in almost every culture.
Growers harvest six-foot sesame plants after three to five months’ growth. Next they are cut, dried and the seeds are hand-harvested. These tiny, flat, brown, yellow, red or black seeds yield light or dark oil and enhance sweet as well as savory dishes.
Sesame seeds are a nearly perfect food. Being a high source of protein, sesame seeds are rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and folate. They contain no cholesterol, however, they’re high in polyunsaturated fat.
You can buy sesame seeds or its paste form, tahini, in supermarkets and Middle Eastern markets. Health food stores carry them in bulk. Because of a high oil content, sesame seeds turn rancid easily. Refrigerate the seeds or tahini after opening.
Here’s just a few uses for sesame seed:
- Use in or on baked goods such as breads, pastries, cakes and cookies.
- Spread cream cheese on crackers or flatbread, then sprinkle liberally with toasted sesame seeds. Season with a little sea salt and coarsely-cracked pepper.
- Dredge jumbo shrimp in seasoned sesame seeds and sauté in butter.
- Roasting the seeds in a dry skillet brings out maximum flavor. Sprinkle over salads, buttered vegetables and soups.
- Baba Ghanoush, a Mediterranean favorite, is a paste made from tahini, eggplant puree and spices.
- Make hummus with pureed chick peas and sesame paste and spices.