All who love peanut butter, raise your hands. I think I see a sea of arms waving frantically in the air. Peanut butter predated apricots and pistachios for my afternoon snacks, spread on apples or bananas or just spooned out of a jar hidden in my desk and eaten like a lollipop. But then as one grows older and pays attention to things like skyrocketing cholesterol, the peanut butter has to go. It was a tearful parting for me. Yet time healed this as it does most wounds, and just when I wasn’t expecting it, I discovered that there was indeed another that could fill the void.

Into my life walked tahini (pronounced in Arabic like tiny), a paste of toasted sesame seeds that I’d known forever, but hadn’t paid much attention to.

The reason tahini turned into a newfound love for me was that in the past I wasn’t using the best brand. I’ve since discovered that not all tahini is created equal—many tahinis can be bitter and pasty and make you think you could never forget peanut butter. But the good stuff, Joyva brand, is dark, nutty, all natural tahini. with a flavor that borders on buttery. I may not take a spoonful straight, but I sure will lick the spoon and also use that much more tahini in whatever I’m making because of the great depth of flavor exceptional tahini imparts.

Tahini separates in the can or jar, so the sesame oil must be stirred well into the paste before use. The paste can harden a bit at the bottom of the Joyva can, so scrape that up to get an even mixture.

Tahini is used to add complexity and flavor to Lebanese dips like hummus and baba gannouj, or whipped to a fluffy heaven with lemon juice and salt to make the simplest and most delicious sauce for all kinds of things, like fried cauliflower … or a delectable sauteed red snapper with tahini sauce and toasted pine nuts, coming up later this week.

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