Tahini On My Mind... And In My Brownies.

October 2, 2017

This weekend's episode of Milk Street Kitchen pulled the tahini out of the Middle Eastern pantry and made use of it in a variety of recipes, including a traditional hummus that'll wake up your taste buds. And it's love at first bite for Chris when he learns how to make tahini swirl brownies.

Stacy Buchanan
Israeli hummus

Meatballs got a makeover at Milk Street this weekend when Cook Rayna Jhaveri showed host Chris Kimball how to make Turkish meatballs with lime-yogurt sauce. The recipe borrows a French concept: panade, a bread-based paste that helps keep the meat moist. Chris followed up by explaining the chemistry of the crumbs.

Next, Milk Street Cook Catherine Smart showed Chris how to make Israeli hummus, that's to die for. And rounding out the show, Milk Street Cook Erika Bruce shows how versaIle tahini shines equally bright in their ulImate tahini swirl brownies.

You can watch the episode here. And we've got the recipes below. Grab a jar of tahini at the store tonight and try something new!


Turkish meatballs with lime-yogurt sauce

Turkish Meatballs with Lime-Yogurt Sauce
These crisp, patty-shaped meatballs developed a flavorful crust from pan-frying. This recipe also works with a blend of lamb and beef. Milk Street heated the spices, shallots and garlic in oil in the microwave to draw out their flavors. They loved the meatballs stuffed into pita pockets with sliced tomato, cucumber, red onion and flatleaf parsley (as pictured above). Tangy yogurt sauce spiked with lime juice and cayenne made for a bright counterpart.

Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling
Servings: 6


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (8-inch) pita bread, torn into small pieces (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves, (1-ounce) finely chopped
  • 11/2 pounds 90-percent lean ground beef
  • 11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

For Lime-Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the shallot, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and oregano and. Microwave until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pita bread, yogurt and water and use your hands to mash the mixture to a smooth paste. Add the reserved oil mixture, the mint, beef, salt and pepper. Use your hands to thoroughly mix. Divide meat into 12 portions and use your hands to roll each into smooth balls. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon oil over medium- high until just beginning to smoke. Add the meatballs and use a metal spatula to press them into 1/2-inch-thick patties. Cook over medium heat, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the meatballs register 140F, cooked through, and are well browned on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes.

To make the Lime-Yogurt Sauce:

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, tahini, lime juice, salt and cayenne until smooth.


Tahini swirl brownies

Tahini Swirl Brownies
The duo of dark chocolate and cocoa powder gave these brownies depth, and the vanilla enhanced the flavor of both of them. The combination of tahini and sugar replicates the sweet sesame flavor of halvah candy but was easier to work with—and to find. Swirling the reserved tahini batter into the chocolate created a visual and textural contrast and let the tahini flavor shine. The best way to marble the brownies was to run the tip of a paring knife through the dollops of batter.

Start to finish: 40 minutes, plus cooling
Makes 16 Brownies


  • 4 tablespoons salted butter (1/2 stick), plus more for pan
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 16 grams (3 tablespoons) cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 223 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 180 grams (3/4 cup) tahini
  • 47 grams (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour


Heat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle position. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with 2 pieces of foil with excess hanging over the edges on all sides. Lightly coat with butter.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and cocoa, whisking until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Whisk in the tahini. Fold in the flour until just incorporated. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. Add the chocolate mixture to the remaining tahini mixture and fold until fully combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Dollop the reserved tahini mixture over the top, then swirl the batters together with the tip of a paring knife. Bake until the edges are set but the center remains moist, 28 to 32 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Use the foil to lift the brownies from the pan. Cool on the rack for at least another 30 minutes before removing from foil. The longer the brownies cool, the more easily they cut. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Don’t skip stirring the tahini before measuring; the solids often sink to the bottom.


Israeli hummusIsraeli Hummus

Small chickpeas work best for hummus; aim for no larger than a green pea. The Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value brand worked very well. If you can only find larger chickpeas, cook them for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until very tender and almost starting to break down. Soak the chickpeas for at least 12 hours. They can be soaked ahead of time, then drained, bagged and refrigerated for up to two days.

Tahini is a sesame paste that can be found near the peanut butter or in the international aisle at most grocers. Milk Street liked the Kevala brand, but Soom and Aleppo were good, too. Look for a brand that is toasted and pours easily. Processing the chickpeas while warm ensures the smoothest, lightest hummus, as will processing it for a full three minutes in the first stage. Hummus traditionally is served warm and garnished with paprika, cumin, chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Sometimes a sliced hard-boiled egg is added.

Leftover hummus can be refrigerated for up to five days. To reheat, transfer to a microwave-safe bowl, cover and gently heat, adding a few tablespoons of tap water as needed to reach the proper consistency, 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, set over a double-boiler. You will need at least a 9-cup food processor for this recipe.

Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active), plus soaking
Makes 4 cups


  • Cold water
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) dried chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup-toasted sesame tahini, room temperature
  • 31/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika


In a large bowl, combine 8 cups of cold water, the chickpeas and 2 tablespoons of the salt. Let soak at least 12 hours, or overnight.

In a large saucepan or stockpot over high, bring another 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil. Drain the soaked chickpeas, discarding soaking water, and add to the pot. Return to a simmer, then reduce to medium and cook until the skins are falling off and the chickpeas are very tender, 45 to 50 minutes.

Set a mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain the chickpeas into it; reserve 3/4 cup of the chickpea cooking water. Let sit for 1 minute to let all liquid drain. Set aside about 2 tablespoons of chickpeas, then transfer the rest to the food processor. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, then process for 3 minutes.

Stop the processor and add the tahini. Continue to process until the mixture has lightened and is very smooth, about 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the processor bow. With the machine running, add the 3/4 cup of cooking liquid and the lemon juice. Process until combined. Taste and season with salt.

Transfer the hummus to a shallow serving bowl and use a large spoon to make a swirled well in the center. Drizzle with olive oil, then top with the reserved 2 tablespoons chickpeas, parsley, cumin and paprika.

Don’t forget stir the tahini very well. Some brands separate and can become quite thick at the bottom of the container. If your tahini is particularly thick, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of tap water for the hummus to reach the right consistency. If you reserve some of the hummus to serve later, you won’t need the full amounts of olive oil, cumin and paprika to garnish.


  • October 2, 2017