I have never met a seed, nut, or–I’ll say it–bread that I didn’t want to toast immediately.
We’ve had some good long talks about toasted nuts, deep golden brown toasted nuts that I keep (in little jars) in my refrigerator, ready to jazz up salads and pilafs and my mid-day need for yum.
Toasted seeds are the same deal. They’re so much more flavorful, so much crunchier, after a hit of toasted warmth. Pumpkin seeds rank high, and they are a favorite Lebanese snack (I saw big salty bags of them, and bought some, at Beirut bakery in Detroit not long ago).
Sesame seeds, like pumpkin seeds and especially pine nuts, simply have to be toasted. Eating them raw is like stepping out the shower and leaving for work without getting dressed. You just don’t do it. If a restaurant serves me anything with raw pine nuts on it, I give that place an unrecoverable black mark.
Ziyad offers bags of toasted sesame seeds, but those aren’t always available. Besides, I like to toast sesame seeds fresh, as needed. If you make big batches ahead, put the sesame seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for freshness.
Sesame seeds can be toasted in the oven or on the stove top. I like to do it in the oven for evenness, but either way works well.
For the oven method: Preheat the oven to 350˚F. On a heavy duty baking sheet, spread the sesame seeds out in an even layer by shaking the pan a bit. Baking time will depend on how thick your layer of seeds is, but for a cup it takes about 12 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes to “stir” the seeds, until they are golden brown.
For the stove top method: In a medium or large frying pan, spread about a cup of sesame seeds out in an even layer and cook over medium heat. Shake or stir the seeds constantly to keep the seeds moving, toasting them evenly and preventing burning, for about 5 minutes. Again, the time this takes depends on how thick your layer of seeds is.
I beg you not to leave the oven or the stove while sesame seeds are toasting. They’re tiny little guys and they will burn in a heartbeat.
Cool the toasted sesame seeds and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to several weeks or in the freezer for months.