It might not be surprising for you to learn that, at any given time, I have a list of things I want to cook/make/experiment with in the kitchen that could easily stretch around the block. The inspiration comes from all over; other blogs, the beautiful covers of new cookbooks, the beautiful insides of those same new cookbooks. From magazines, restaurants, street smells, and of course social media. But gleaning the taste and sense of a new dish from this last inspiration stream isn’t all that easy; a recipe in 140 words on Twitter only tells so much of the story (though I do really love the culinary haiku of Ruth Reichl,) and there are so so many horrible food photos splashed all over Facebook. Instagram too. I follow so many culinary/design minds on Instagram now that when we all get on a pumpkin kick, or a ginger cake kick, or a chocolate chip cookie kick the photographs all blend together. But then will come a dramatic, captivating photo of something simple from Alaina Sullivan (@alasully . ) Her photographs of porridge, and the tastes described/scenes set with them have made my heart skip a beat lately. Especially one last week featuring honey sesame spread. It was deep hunger pain too deep not to do anything about, so I decided to make some of my own.
The intrigue probably originated with the sesame, that has haunted me since we returned from China a few weeks back. The Chinese use sesame – both black and white varieties – in a myriad of ways. The toasted seeds themselves are sprinkled on noodles, pastries, buns, and entrees, or are ground up to make pastes to fill sweet desserts, to mix into sauces, or marinades. The streets lined with homemade pastries are what stick in my mind most, and that underlying toasty, roasty flavor that would easily give away your location if you happened to navigate China with a blindfold on.
Asian sesame paste is not the same as tahini of the Middle East. Tahini is typically made from hulled, un-toasted sesame seeds and added oil, while asian sesame paste is made of toasted sesame seeds. I’ve made my own tahini many times over the years (if you’re interested in doing so, this is a great recipe and guide.) I don’t know what Ms. Sullivan had in mind for her honey-sesame paste, but I wanted to marry up that toasty flavor with the honey for something new.
Making this spread is so straightforward, and I hope that it’s a method that you are able to draw on for other nut butters and spreads. (It is of note, however, that sesame seeds are SEEDS and not nuts, for those with nut-free considerations.) You could choose to toast your sesame seeds or not; not toasting them will lend a slightly bitter flavor that will pair differently with the sweet honey. The roasted sesame seeds will lend a more distinct flavor of sesame, that I think pairs exceptionally well with the honey.
We’ve been stirring the spread into porridge (of course,) and apples (clearly) but also spreading it on toast and bagels instead of nut butter, and mixing it into hummus with other things we have on hand. My favorite use for the spread was to mix it into these cookies, but I can’t wait to hear what you decide to do with it! Enjoy! – xo L
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp each toasted sesame oil and sunflower or canola oil (2 Tbsp total)
- 1/2 cup honey
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and spread the sesame seeds on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the seeds, stirring once or twice, until they are lightly colored (not brown) and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the toasted sesame seeds to a large plate or tray and let them cool completely.
- Next, make the sesame honey spread. Place the sesame seeds in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. (Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle or a blender, although success may depend on the particular blender.)
- Process for 2 to 3 minutes until the sesame seeds form a crumbly paste. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the food processor. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture forms a thick and fairly smooth paste. Add the 1/2 cup of honey to the food processor and process until smooth.
- Transfer the spread to a jar or other airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for a month or longer. If the mixture separates, stir the spread to redistribute the oil.