January 8, 2009

Tahini-Lemon Sauce

The abundance of Lebanese restaurants in Portland naturally fuels a lively debate over which one is the best. There are many theories, from Ya Hala to Al-Amir, but it is the first Lebanese restaurant I was introduced to that remains my favorite. Nicholas, the hole in the wall off Grand, vastly out-ranks the others--for only one reason: the tahini. It's ridiculously divine and I am simply incapable of describing it well enough to do it justice.

Every time I go, I order the vegan mezze platter--which last for at least two meals. It includes falafel and hummus, all you can eat pita, a garbanzo dish, tabouleh and more. It's all delicious, but I'm really just looking for that huge puddle of tahini. One dip with a chunk of fresh, hot pita and I'm completely, utterly satisfied. The long wait for a table? Worth it for that one bite.

Here is a recipe I decided to try, since I can't afford to eat out much any more. It's from my trusty original Moosewood Cookbook--copyright 1977. This turned out very well--and far outshined the falafels (from a mix--next time from scratch!) we also attempted. I'm fairly certain it's as close as I'm going to get without the secret recipe from Nicholas' kitchen.

  • 1 1/2 cups tahini (sesame seed paste--found near the peanut butter in the supermarket)
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 medium clove crushed garlic (I love my jar from Trader Joe's!)
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (around 3 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup chopped (or finely-minced if mixing by hand) scallions (I used regular onions.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped (or finely-minced if mixing by hand) parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 or 2 dashes cayenne
  • 1 or 2 dashes paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin (or more, to taste--I'm a huge fan of this spice...)
  • 1 or 2 dashes of tamari
  1. Combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse until creamy and smooth. (You can also use a wisk or an electric mixer.) Sample the mixture and add ingredients to suit your taste.


  1. I will respectfully disagree with your coronation of Nicholas' hummus as the best in the city, but look forward to trying your tahini sometime.


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