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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 rich in omega-3 fatty acids and may help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. It also contains some protein, fiber, and many nutrients, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and some B vitamins as well. The high amounts of magnesium and phosphorus may help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Though relatively high in calories and fat, tahini contains healthier, unsaturated fat and antioxidants which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. As with all things, moderation is the key.
Though readily available in 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, ground 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 tahini
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Greek honey
For the filling:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped, blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sesame seeds, optional
2-4 tablespoons honey or orange marmalade
1/2 cup raisins, golden or dark, as preferred
For the topping:
Anthonero (Rose water), optional
Ground cinnamon, optional
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the tahini, orange juice, and honey. Stir until just combined. Knead lightly, if needed, to bring all the ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, stir together the ingredients for the filling 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 to form half-moon shapes, pressing the edges of the dough together to seal. A little water may help to seal the edges or press 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 to 30 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with anthonero (rose water), if using, while the skaltsounia are hot. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, and if preferred, cinnamon. Allow to cool completely on wire racks before serving. Skaltsounia are best enjoyed the day they are made, otherwise store tightly covered in an airtight container since they have a tendency to dry out.
Vegan Tahini Cookies
1 cup Zea or spelt flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch 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, mix together the 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the 1/3 cup grape molasses and 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. Place sesame seeds in a second bowl. Roll balls in the molasses and then coat with the sesame seeds. Place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet.
Note: Plain flour may be used instead of Zea or spelt flour and Greek honey instead of grape molasses.
PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.
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