Comfort Food - Refreshed

June 14, 2012

A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.

This week: Kelly plies freekeh, chickpeas, and carrots with a rave-worthy tahini-dill dressing.

Freekeh (photo by Sarah Shatz)

- Kelly

There’s just something about tahini. Quite simply, tahini is ground-up sesame seeds, a beautiful, creamy, rich paste. Though, in my book, "paste" is not the most appetizing word in the world. Instead, let’s call tahini "sesame seed butter." Tahini is used in many cuisines: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian, to name a few. I, myself, was first introduced to tahini via the ever-popular chickpea spread, hummus. Some tahini is made from raw sesame seeds, which you may want to refrigerate to prolong the shelf life. Other kinds of tahini are made from toasted sesame seeds. Both are delicious and I tend to use them interchangeably in my own cooking. 

Tahini works as an excellent creamy base for recipes partly due to its healthy fat content. Yes, there’s fat in tahini, but it’s good fat! It’s a whole food-based fat which, by nature, contains much of the nutritional value found in the original whole food. Tahini is a great, binding substitute for dairy or egg or extracted oil. It’s extremely low in cholesterol and sodium and a serves as a good source of fiber, vitamin B, and calcium. And it’s easier in some ways for your body to digest because the seeds are ground up.

But why do I really love tahini? Because it’s delicious, of course! It’s nutty, it’s a bit bitter, it’s a bit sweet. And it blends up into dressings and sauces like a dream. I first noticed tahini outside the realm of hummus at, of all places, macrobiotic restaurants. Every macro joint I check out in NYC seems to have some sort of tahini dressing on the menu. One taste of the stuff and I was hooked.

Since that first taste, I’ve discovered that tahini lightens and brightens with the addition of citrus and fresh herbs. That’s the great thing about all nut and seed butters -- they’re so rich that fresh ingredients help to enhance their natural flavor. My favorite tahini-based dressing is Tahini-Dill. Oh goodness, I feel like dill is underutilized as far as herbs go! It has a clean, grassy-sweet flavor. And it's not just for egg and potato salads. It contributes a fresh, summery flavor to salads both produce- and protein-based. (In tuna salads! In pineapple-cucumber salads!) And dill contributes undeniable freshness in my lemony, garlicky tahini dressing, which in turn complements my salad of freekeh, chickpeas and carrots. What on earth is freekeh, you might ask? Well, it’s a whole grain, a young, roasted wheat similar to wheat berries. If you can’t find it at your local store, wheat berries or farro would work well in its place. In fact, use any whole grain you like in this salad, as you explore my favorite dressing. Go on, give in to tahini temptation.

Freekeh, Chickpea and Carrot Salad with Tahini-Dill Dressing

Serves 4-6

2 cups cracked freekeh
5 cups water
1 pound carrots, peeled and 1/4 inch dice
2 15-oz. cans no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one orange
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flake
1/4 cup chopped dill
Water to thin out sauce
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Stop by for cooking advice!

Do you need help with maintaining a healthy diet? Drop by WFM Columbus Circle or WFM Union Square to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips.

Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Peach-Berry Brown Rice Pudding.

Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.

kelly dupuis

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