Ingredient Spotlight: Sesame Seeds

Like soy sauce and peppercorns, sesame seeds are one of those seasonings we can't imagine life without. Providing nuttiness and crunch, these delicate little seeds find their way into so many of our dishes. They also happen to go well with our eating light standbys – foods like tofu, salads, sautéed and steamed vegetables, and buckwheat soba noodles.

Sesame seeds pop up in many cuisines throughout the world, from Africa to Asia to the Middle East, where they are sprinkled on baked goods, used as a condiment, ground into a paste, and pressed for oil. As the main ingredient in Japanese gomasio or sesame salt and Middle Eastern tahini, they are a staple of our vegetarian pantry.

We like to keep two kinds of sesame seeds: white ones, which are slightly more delicate, and black ones, which are a bit nuttier and make a striking garnish. (The difference is not great, however, and they can be used interchangeably.) Like most nuts and seeds, sesame seeds are prone to rancidity, so storing them in the freezer or refrigerator keeps them fresh. Lightly toasting them in a dry skillet brings out their flavor.

We generally don't do anything particularly complicated with sesame seeds, yet they can add so much to a dish. A pinch over rice or vegetables is simple and tasty. We especially like them on spinach, cauliflower, and seaweed. They can also be sprinkled on baked tofu or whisked into a salad dressing with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and minced garlic. How do you like to use sesame seeds?

Recipes from The Kitchn:

Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles
Cold Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad
Sesame Cabbage Salad
Sesame Cucumber Salad
Lemon Sesame Muffins
Sweet Heat Brownies

(Image: Flickr member shok licensed under Creative Commons)

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