Tuesday, August 21, 2012

quite possibly the best dressing in the world

If you're anything like me, then you'll love a good salad. If they're not your thing, then I'll be working damned hard in this blog to convince you otherwise. Salads don't have to merely consist of a few tomatoes, cucumber and some iceberg lettuce shoved in a bowl. Or have you been disappointed like me before when on a Sunday brunch date the menu promises "a seasonal salad picked fresh from our garden" on the side of your poached eggs, only to discover a few sprigs of limp greens falling off the edge of the plate. That aint' a salad!

A real salad is more than that... 

It can be made with a huge variety of ingredients and served hot, warm or cold. It can star chickpeas, lentils, brown rice, black rice, quinoa or barley. Herbs? Of course - just about any fresh herb you can think of. How about adding some vegetables - raw, steamed, or roasted. You can add dried fruit, nuts, seeds and spices. And for the carnivores out there - yes oh yes, you can add meat to a salad.

One of my favourite elements to the salad ensemble is the dressing. There are loads of different dressing recipes out there. Some involve a very detailed and extravagant recipe while others are a little more basic and easy to prepare. A good old favourite of mine if I'm running short on time is to combine a quick pour of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of some good quality salt. Mmmmmm. Delicious. 

Today I want to introduce you to another favourite of mine. It's a short and simple recipe and one of my kitchen essentials. It's a tahini based dressing and can be whipped up in seconds. 

Tahini is a creamy nut-butter paste made from ground sesame seeds. It has a slightly bitter taste compared to the well-known peanut butter but its awesome health benefits make this creamy nutty paste all the sweeter! Tahini provides a good source of B vitamins (B1 - Thiamin in particular), essential fatty acids, manganese, protein, magnesium and calcium. Essential fatty acids are essential because we cannot produce them on our own and they are crucial for healthy body function. Manganese helps us obtain and utilise those fatty acids and the B1 vitamin - thiamin. And of course, magnesium and calcium are super important too. A good balance of the two are necessary to build strong and healthy bones (let's not forget about magnesium - calcium is not the only nutrient to consider when thinking about bone strength). 

I'm so hooked on tahini I sometimes wonder if I have an addiction problem. I honestly believe I could start a blog purely based on recipes that include tahini! This wonder nut-butter is most commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine and is a key ingredient in the crowd favourite - hummus. If tahini is new to you the taste may take some getting used to, which is why it is great as an element to recipes like hummus and today's dressing. If you become an addict like me though you'll quickly see how you can smear it on toast or use it as a stand alone dip with some crunchy vegetable sticks.

Now on to the dressing. I love this recipe so much that the title 'tahini dressing' just didn't cut it. Instead, I've rolled with - 'quite possibly the best dressing in the world'. 

I've actually gone right back to the basics and teamed it up with a simple and classic green salad (proof, I think, that even the most basic of dishes can excite). But don't let me stop you adding more to your dish. It compliments chicken beautifully (you could bake a couple of chicken breasts off in the oven, slice them over a green salad and finish with a generous helping of dressing) or can be tossed through some brown rice with steamed broccoli and green beans. This dressing jazzes up just about anything  - last week I'd had a long day and felt too lazy to cook. I had a huge container of alfalfa sprouts sitting in the fridge (I hear some of you cringing), so I mixed through some quite-possibly-the-best-dressing-in-the-world and I had myself a simply delicious nutty sprout salad. It turned what some would consider a food nightmare (not me though..I'm a geek for sprouts) in to a rich dreamy health-full salad.

quite possibly the best dressing in the world

(...with a classic garden salad and toasted sesame seeds)

salad mix
2-3 handfuls of your favourite greens (I used spinach and lettuce) - roughly chopped
8 halved cheery tomatoes
1/4 red onion - finely diced
1/2 small cucumber - peeled and chopped into half cylinders
black or regular sesame seeds to garnish - lightly toasted off for 3 minutes in a dry pan

The above ingredients combine to make a perfect sized salad-for-one. Prepare vegetables as stated above, or chop and dice in your desired fashion. Combine everything bar the sesame seeds in a bowl and set aside.

quite possibly the best dressing in the world
4 generous Tbls tahini
4 Tbls cold pressed olive oil
4 Tbls water
4 Tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbls honey
1 clove garlic - finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste - I use approx half tsp of flaky sea-salt and a good few grinds of pepper

Add all ingredients to a jar. Apply a lid and firmly tighten. Thoroughly shake till everything is well combined - usually about 30 seconds. It is important to really shake things up so that the water and oil combine properly to form a stable emulsion (unlike a vinegar/oil mix which form a temporary emulsion and later separate) and you're left with a thick and creamy dressing. Add a couple of generous spoonfuls to your green salad and lightly toss through to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy.

Note: After shaking, this dressing becomes quite thick. Feel free to adjust quantities to suit. If I feel like something a little lighter and I have some left over in the jar I'll add another dash of water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or sometimes once I've added the dressing to a salad I'll drizzle over an extra dash of olive oil.

Note 2: For the raw foodies out there - If you'd like to ensure this dressing is 100% raw, please make sure you use cold pressed olive oil and raw, unhulled tahini.

That, my friends, is all you need to do. Throw in a jar, shake, drizzle and eat it!

Lots of delicious love, 

Kau xx

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