A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post on vegetarian stuffed green peppers and squash. It was a recipe made for a vegan friend who had given birth recently. I also mentioned in the same post that I made a zucchini-tahini dip and took it to my friend in the same meal. What I didn’t mention in that post, is that this dip was an experiment. I had never in my life thought of tahini as a dip; I’ve always had it as a sauce! Let me explain …
I grew up eating tahina (that’s what we called it in Arabic) as a plain sauce, made of sesame paste mixed with water, lemon juice, and spices like cumin and coriander. My mother didn’t really have patience for mixing things in the kitchen; she had enough to worry about with cooking! So, my dad would take the role of ‘mixing master’ and he’d enjoy mixing the proportions in our tahini sauce to make it just right. Sometimes, he’d add his own little twist and sneak in an unconventional ingredient in the mixes, just for fun! We’d always call him out on it, but he would challenge us to try to figure out what the “secret ingredient” was. Nine times out of ten, the extra ingredient would add an unexpected but welcome complexity to the flavor of the dish. But sometimes, it wasn’t so successful. So, that’s one experience I had with tahini …
On other occasions, tahini was sometimes paired with molasses and served as a sweet snack. Sometimes we added it to legume dishes like ful medames (fava beans) or falafel sandwiches. We also always had tahini with fish, as a sauce or side. We’d drizzle it on a particular rice dish that we only made when we’d eat seafood. This rice involved onions that were so caramelized in ghee, that they colored the white rice to a rich brown color, and gave the dish a most savory flavor. And boy was it delicious! Like Brenda, I didn’t like fish growing up (I do now!), so I looked forward to our weekly seafood-themed meal just for the browned rice with tahini sauce! Even when we visited Egypt in the summers, my grandparents followed the same protocol – any type of fish was made with this browned rice and a side of tahini sauce … except that my grandparents‘ version of tahini was even simpler than my own parents’ version. It was simply sesame paste, water, lemon juice and salt. That’s it – no spices in there! The simpler version worked well as a sauce for the flavorful rice, but didn’t taste so interesting as a dip on its own.
So when I was making a tahini dip for my friend, I wanted to add a little extra flavor (and extra vitamins) in there. I had fresh summer zucchinis (kousa in Arabic) on hand, so I did what my dad would do (I am my father’s daughter, after all) … I thought of blending some of the zucchinis into the tahini dip, and adding some spices. Risky? Yes. But everyone knows that there are no rewards if no risks are ever taken!
The result was really great: the flavor of the tahini didn’t change too much — it mostly tasted the same as I’ve always had it; but it was seasoned better and the zucchini imparted a ‘fresh’ sort of flavor. The best thing about it? The zucchini added extra vitamins in there, which we’d miss out on if we were to have the dip without the fresh veggie. A win-win all around!
Most kids and teenagers love dips, and this is a really easy way to sneak in fresh veggies where they will least expect it! Try to use raw tahini, or pure sesame paste; otherwise, you might be getting a refined product or one that has some undesirable rancid oils in there added for more volume. Check out my spotlight post on tahini for more information!
Raw Zucchini Tahini Dip (Tahina bil Kousa)
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: It’s raw!
Ingredients (serves 6)
Try to use organic ingredients whenever possible, and if available.
- 2 fresh medium zucchinis, chopped
- 1/2 cup raw tahini or sesame paste
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
(1) Chop zucchini: Wash and chop zucchini.
(2) Blend: Measure all the other ingredients, and blend in a food processor or blender. If too watery, add more tahini paste, and if too thick, add more water – until a good consistency is reached. Do a taste test to determine if you need to add a little bit extra of any spice or seasoning.
(3) Serve: Place in fridge until ready to serve. Serve with other raw vegetables like organic carrots and celery sticks, or with some sprouted bread or homemade crackers.