There’s a pretty classic comedy trope where a super methodical, high strung person gets called out for being way too uptight, and then tries to pretend to be laid back and cool (and of course fails), and that’s kind of how I’ve felt writing these last few posts in this tahini series. It’s like when Anthony Michael Hall pretends to have a girlfriend in Canada in the Breakfast Club. Or maybe it’s more like when Cameron lets Ferris borrow his dad’s Ferrari, only to let the unmanned car go crashing through the glass garage into the woods. If only you could be a fly on the wall, watching me spend forever editing and paring down my instructions until they finally seem casual enough. I am totally out of my depth.
So it probably goes without saying that I usually prefer writing extremely detailed recipes, because I don’t think it’s practical to assume that everyone already knows how to do everything (and that’s ok!). I remember when I first started learning how to cook a long, long time ago, hearing an instruction like “season to taste” meant nothing to me, and I wished that all recipes at least gave a ballpark estimation. Indeed, back then, whenever I heard “season to taste,” I would always just use a little tiny pinch, or a few shakes from the salt shaker, which is almost never enough. It took years of practice to learn how to season without a recipe, which is a skill everyone should try to develop. But if you try to learn this skill without any guidance, you’re going to eat a lot of bland food, and then a lot of inedibly salty food, before you figure it out, which is why I always let you know the amount I use. (And I just figure that people who don’t really need to be told can just ignore the instruction.)
But there are certain things that most people know how to cook without much guidance. You know how to chop ingredients up and turn them into a salad. You probably know how to cook a piece of salmon or chicken breast. You probably know how to roast veggies. And so the inspiration behind this tahini series hasn’t been techniques or formulas, but learning to pair simple food with a simple sauce for a delicious dinner.
So to close out this series, I’ve put all of the tahini sauce variations together in one place, and I’ve also included some Sunday night meal prep examples. But guyssss, the meal plans are totally caaaasual—no worries (I’m laidback now!!!). So here’s the idea: you make one or two batches of plain tahini sauce, and then, over the course of the week, you add a few simple ingredients to the sauce for a whole bunch of different meals. One simple tahini sauce ends up transforming all the usual weeknight dinners into delicious meals.
tahini sauce base
1/4 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Whisk everything together until it smooths out and thickens.
tahini sauce base + 2 tablespoons date syrup (or 1 1/2 tablespoons honey)
Serve with: a sweet summer salad, fruit salad, roast veggies (especially eggplant), or anywhere you’d use honey mustard dressing, e.g., as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers. Pictured here: salad with spinach, cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, almonds, and ground pistachios
tahini sauce base + 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin + 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander + 1 clove garlic, crushed through a press
Serve with: grain bowls, falafel, grilled meat, shawarma, roast veggies (especially fall veggies), chicken breast, London broil. Pictured here: freekeh, chickpeas, slow roast tomatoes, roast sweet potatoes and broccoli
tahini sauce base + 1/4 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt + 2 tablespoons minced herbs (any combination of parsley, mint, dried mint, cilantro, and/or dill) + 1 clove garlic crushed through a press (optional) + a pinch more of salt
Sunday night meal prep
Make as much tahini dressing base as you’d like for the week (it will keep for at least 1 week in the fridge, and you can always make more). Choose a few of the following dinners, and shop and prep for them. When it’s time to make dinner, take some of the tahini base, mix in a few of the necessary extras, and cook dinner as usual.
easy open-face sheikh mahshi / stuffed eggplant (gluten free)
Halve lengthwise and cross-hatch some eggplants. Season them with salt, let them sit cut-side-down for 15 minutes, and then grill or broil them cut-side-up until they’re golden brown and charred in a few spots. Separately, sauté some onion and garlic, then sauté some ground beef, sprinkle on some baharat (or just paprika, black pepper, and cumin), and season everything to taste. Once it’s cooled down a little, stir chopped parsley into the ground beef. Once the eggplants are out of the oven, place them cut-side-up on a serving tray and top with the filling and tahini yogurt sauce.
To prep ahead: make the filling ahead of time, and reheat as needed.
steak salad (gluten free)
Season and grill some steaks or a London broil to medium-rare. Let it rest, and then slice against the grain. Serve over chopped romaine or iceberg, top with sliced radishes, chives, crispy chopped bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and halved cherry tomatoes, and drizzle with extra-savory tahini dressing.
To prep ahead: wash and prep the veggies and cook the bacon.
summery salad (vegan or vegetarian)
Toss together greens, your favorite stone fruit, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, your favorite nuts, chickpeas (or another legume), and drizzle with tahini date salad dressing. Serve alongside a crusty multi-grain loaf of bead. To turn this into a vegetarian salad, add some blue cheese or parmesan shavings.
To prep ahead: wash and prep the veggies, and assemble the salad at the last minute.
your favorite grain bowl (vegan, gluten free)
Sauté some mushrooms or slow roast some tomatoes, boil your favorite grain (brown rice [gf], farro, freekeh, barley, etc.), roast some sweet potatoes and broccoli (or another leafy green), sauté some chicken breast or strain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Let everyone build their own bowl, and drizzle with the extra-savory tahini sauce.
To prep ahead: cook each component, and microwave them at the last minute.
grilled salmon (gluten free)
Grill some salmon, sauté your favorite leafy greens, make some yellow rice, and serve everything with the tahini yogurt sauce and lemon wedges.
To prep ahead: buy frozen salmon and defrost in the fridge the night before. Wash and chop the greens.