The Super Sesame Seed: Getting to Know Tahini With Pepperwood Organics

For those of you who know, I’m a mom to a one-year old. He’s amazing and I love him to death. There are a lot of things that come with being a new mom. The lack of sleep, the choice of going to the gym or taking a nap, choosing between tea and coffee (do you notice my theme of not sleeping?) – but one thing that I wasn’t expecting was how difficult… maybe that’s the wrong word… how feeding my little guy would not be simple.

I can only hope for my hummus to be this smooth and picture perfect!

As he continues to grow up, he keeps trying new foods, going back to his favorites (strawberries, bananas, oatmeal… like every other kid in America), but one item that has saved me from hitting my head with a frying pan because he’s not eating enough of his vegetables has been hummus.

He absolutely loves hummus. And I’m not talking store bought people (if you know me, you know that already). I have an never ending supply of garbanzo beans in my cabinet, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, veggies of all kinds, and the magic ingredient – tahini.

As his love for hummus and tahini grew, so did mine. I became interested in just what made different tahinis unique. What exactly is tahini? What makes one better than the other? Is one better than the other? Do I keep it in the fridge? Can I pour it on everything? What’s the best brand (in my humble opinion of course)?

Here are the answers in that order:
Ground sesame seeds.
The process.
Yes.
Some yes, some no.
Absolutely.
Pepperwood Organics

Ok, I’ll go into a bit more detail now.

First things firs…what exactly is tahini and are there health benefits to this tiny seed?

Tahini is basically toasted, ground, hulled sesame seeds. Think peanut butter, with a slightly different taste. It’s a staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines as well as my house. Used alone or in hummus, baba ghanoush, and even pasta dressings, it’s definitely worth having in your cabinet.

As for health benefits, yea, there’s a lot! Packed with all those healthy fats that your body craves like polyunsaturated essential fatty acids that support your heart and skin, these little powerhouse nuts are also jam-packed with other nutrients from calcium and manganese to protein, iron, and zinc. 

Are there differences in tahini and how do I choose the best tahini possible?

Yes there are. (Don’t worry, I didn’t realize this until I did some research and talked to some industry experts.) Some tahini are made with toasted sesame seeds, some are hulled, some aren’t, there are a ton of variations even though the ingredient label just says “sesame seeds!” Going organic is always a great option and then really, it’s all about your own personal taste. 

To keep in the fridge or not… that is the question! 

You’ve heard that nuts have oil and oils spoil right? I keep many of my nuts (except for my family) stored inside the fridge to prolong their life. I was doing the same thing with my tahini, until I spoke with the owner of Pepperwood Organics who told me nope, as long as you’re using it, it actually stays BETTER at room temperature! 

So about this Pepperwood Organics… 

tahini

Using only White Humera seeds found in Humera, Ethiopa, the sesame has a high oil content, giving it a “smooth, creamy texture.” Think super pourable and spreadable instead of thicker. Pepperwood Organics also uses absolutely no salt in the hulling process of the seeds. Basically, they “figured out how to make an unhulled (whole) sesame butter that tastes amazing, while retaining all the goodness this super seed has to offer.” 

Finally, in order to get a paste, you need to grind it! At Pepperwood, they go ancient, using only stone grinding techniques dating back thousands of years ago instead of metal (I mean do you really want a metallic taste in your food? I didn’t think so.) 

tahini
Picture Courtesy of Pepperwood Organics

It’s amazing what you learn when you go beyond the nutritional label and ingredients. Yes, they tell you a lot, but they don’t tell you the entire story.

I’ll be sharing some of my favorite easy and simple tahini recipes in a couple of days so stay tuned!

tahiniOh and did I mention you can buy Pepperwood Organics from Amazon (or their website with free 2-day shipping)? Yea, it’s not only super affordable, but you don’t even have to leave your house to enjoy it!

As always, Bee Well,

Melissa

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Orange… Actually It’s Onion’t You Happy I Said Onions?

After a fun trip to Stockton Market, an absolute must visit for any lover of all good things that you put into your mouth, I had the opportunity to hear about a newly released cookbook dedicated to, you guessed it, ONIONS. I wrote about the cookbook for JerseyBites.com (check out my article here) and they even contributed a recipe for their Appalachian Chimichurri sauce for a BestofNJ.com article (read that one here) that celebrates not only cookbooks written by New Jersey authors, but also GRILLING!

Those two articles were fun to write, but now I want to give a shout out to the whimsicialness (is that a word?) of this book and their authors. First off, I love the idea of taking an under appreciated ingredient… basically the middle child of the culinary world (they’re there, they’re most likely being the mediator, but its rare that people say “oh I wish I was the middle child” – on a side note, I love middle children, I may not be one, but I married one and I love my sister). That said, taking a book and delving into the intricacies of the entire allium family is actually quite fascinating, especially for you food loving people.

We may applaud certain varietals (ramps – that garlic and onion powerhouse- in spring) for their uniqueness, but then look over other varieties (the yellow cooking onion) because they’re just… always there. Instead of just using them as your base, Onions Etcetera: The Essential Alliums Cookbook by Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino (NJ residents shout out!), gives you over 150 opportunities to treat them as a main player in the recipe, from the Chimmichurri sauce mentioned above that’s made with ramps to a one pan chicken dish that featured quartered red onions.

Little did we know, but the allium family also offers a number of health benefits from lowering total cholesterol and blood pressure to destroying infection causing bacteria. Dr. Perricone, a leading doctor in the health and wellness food, even named alliums as the SECOND in his top 10 superfoods.

Alliums, which include both onions and garlic (think of how often you use these two ingredients!), contain “organosulfar compounds,” think sulfar, that give these foods their characteristic flavor. Obviously each specific allium is different, so a leek may be a great source of Vitamin K, while a yellow onion is a good source of biotin and dietary fiber. But, as a whole, alliums are packed with antioxidants including quercetin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Iron, and Folate, essential fatty acids including Omega-3s, and even calcium. So what do those lovely compounds do for our body?

Alliums can…

  • Lower total cholesterol while still raising HDL aka “good” cholesterol.
  • Lessen the hardening of the arteries.
  • Lower blood pressure while reducing the risk of blood clots aka reducing the risk of heart attacks.
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers by producing cells in the blood that naturally fight tumors and infections.
  • Protect against neurological diseases – think brain health!
  • Reduce toxins by enhancing detoxification.

Have I convinced you yet that these kitchen staples deserve a little more appreciation once in a while? I hope so, if not, go on Amazon and order up a copy of Onions Etcetera, I promise it will inspire you. As for me, I’m already inspired and want to share one my favorite ways to not only highlight onions in a dish, especially in the summer, but really make them a can’t miss condiment.

Let me start from the beginning. Many years ago I was in Mexico on vacation, in a little town with dust on the streets, when I had the taco that would change my life. It was simple – the steak was grilled with a few peppers and white onions, the corn tortilla was light, and the salsa was extraordinary. But, what I took away from that taco was the pickled red onions. Ever since that taco, I’ve added this refrigerator staple to almost anything and everything that needs a little zing – from tacos to eggs, rice dishes, salads, and sandwiches. It’s something that’s so simple, but brings such joy, and the best part is… you can make it in a few minutes, for pennies!

I’m giving you the golden culinary ticket here…. I just want you to understand and appreciate this moment.

Ok, so here’s how you make a quick red onion pickle.

First, boil 2-3 cups of water while you peel and thinly slice (think bite sized pieces) one good sized red onion and then peel and chop a garlic clove in half. Get yourself a heat safe glass mason jar, add the onion, garlic, a dash of sugar (I sometimes leave this out), a dash of salt, and 3/4 cup of vinegar (you can use white wine, apple cider, rice… whatever suits your fancy). For the first time, just add the water, stir, place the cap on the jar, and you’ll have pickled onions in a few hours (store in the fridge). Now, when you have become obsessed, you can play around with flavorings, adding in a dried chili, allspice, thyme, etc. Have fun with it!

Until next time… Bee Well,

Melissa