Tahini is a versatile ingredient and is used in many savory and sweet recipes in Greek and Cypriot cuisine. Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini is high in omega-3 fatty acids and may help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also contains protein, fiber and many nutrients, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and certain B vitamins. The high amounts of magnesium and phosphorus can help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Although relatively high in calories and fat, tahini contains healthier unsaturated fats and antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. As with all things, moderation is key.
Although readily available at grocery stores and supermarkets, tahini can be made at home with a simple two-ingredient recipe, 2 cups toasted sesame seeds and 2-4 tablespoons olive oil, crushed together in a food processor until smooth, which makes 1 cup of tahini.
For the dough:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Greek sea salt
1 cup of tahini
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons of Greek honey
For the filling:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped and blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sesame seeds, optional
2-4 tablespoons of honey or orange marmalade
1/2 cup raisins, golden or dark, your choice
For garnish :
Anthonero (rose water), optional
Ground cinnamon, optional
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center and add tahini, orange juice and honey. Stir until just combined. Knead lightly, if necessary, to combine all the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. In another bowl, combine the filling ingredients and set aside. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out circles 5 inches in diameter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center and fold into half-moon shapes, pressing the edges of the dough together to seal. A little water can help seal the edges or press down with the tines of a fork for a more decorative edge. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and drizzle with anthonero (rose water), if using, while the skaltsounia are hot. Sprinkle with icing sugar and, if you prefer, cinnamon. Cool completely on wire racks before serving. Skaltsounia are best eaten the day they are made, otherwise keep them well covered in an airtight container as they tend to dry out.
Vegan Tahini Cookies
1 cup Zea or spelled flour, plus 2 tbsp
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch of Greek sea salt
1/3 cup grape molasses
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon grape molasses
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelled flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Make a well in the center and add 1/3 cup grape molasses and the tahini. Stir to combine. Roll small portions of dough into small balls about 1/2 inch in diameter. Combine water and 1 tablespoon grape molasses in a small bowl or shallow dish. Put the sesame seeds in a second bowl. Roll the balls in molasses then coat them with sesame seeds. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
Note: Plain flour can be used instead of Zea or spelled flour and Greek honey instead of grape molasses.