Milk Street Tahini Rules! (Ep 104)


Turkish Meatballs with Lime- Yogurt Sauce

Meatballs: Start to finish – 20 minutes, plus cooling; Serves 6

Lime-Yogurt Sauce Start to finish – 10 minutes; Makes 1½ cups

THESE CRISP, PATTY-SHAPED meatballs developed a flavorful crust from pan-frying. This recipe also works with a blend of lamb and beef. We heated the spic- es, shallots and garlic in oil in the microwave to draw out their flavors. We loved the meatballs stuffed into pita pockets with sliced tomato, cucumber, red onion and flat-leaf parsley. Tangy yogurt sauce spiked with lime juice and cayenne made for a bright counterpart.


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (1 teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (8-inch) pita bread, torn into small pieces (about 3 ounces)
  • ¼ cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves, (1-ounce) finely chopped
  • 1½ pounds 90-percent lean ground beef
  • 1½ 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
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ 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 ½-inch-thick patties. Cook over medium heat, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the meatballs register 140 degrees, 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

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


  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • (½ 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 (¾ cup) tahini
  • 47 grams (⅓ cup) all-purpose flour


Heat the oven to 350ºF 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 ½ 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 Hummus

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

Makes 4 cups

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. We 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 for 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, set over a double-boiler. You will need at least a 9-cup food processor for this recipe.


  • Cold water
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) dried chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup-toasted sesame tahini, room temperature
  • 3½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ 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 ¾ 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 ¾ 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 to 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.

Spiced Beef Topping for Hummus

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Makes about 2 cups

WARM GROUND MEAT toppings lend rich, savory notes to hummus, and make it a more robust meal. Our inspiration was kawarma, which uses ground lamb. We found beef was just as delicious. Use a wand-style grater to finely grate the garlic. The raw meat mixture can be combined up to an hour ahead and refrigerated until ready to cook. It also can be cooked ahead and refrigerated (minus the lemon and parsley), then reheated in a skillet or microwave just before serving. Finish with the lemon juice and parsley.


  • ½ pound 90 percent lean ground beef
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ large yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or mint
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • Tahini, to serve


In a medium bowl, use your hands to mix together the beef, paprika, salt, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, cayenne, garlic and 2 tablespoons water.

In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high, add the ground beef mixture, the on- ion, and olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until the onion is softened and the beef is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the remaining 10 tablespoons water and cook, scraping the pan, until the water has evaporated and the mixture begins to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Taste and season with salt. Spoon over hummus, then drizzle with tahini.

Sweet-and-Sour Mint Dressing (Sekanjabin)

Start to finish: 10 minutes active, plus 1 hour cooling
Makes about ⅓ cup

WE PREFERRED unfiltered cider vinegars in this recipe. And we loved the dressing on cold roasted vegetables.


  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ½ cup clover honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ounce fresh mint, leaves and stems


In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine ½ cup vinegar, the honey and salt. Simmer until large bubbles appear and mixture reduces to about ½ cup, about 7 minutes. Off heat, add the mint, pushing it into the syrup. Let cool to room temperature. Strain into a bowl, pressing the solids. Stir in the remaining vinegar. Cool. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Don’t use a distinctively flavored honey, such as orange blossom or buckwheat. The flavor will overpower the delicate mint.

Broiled Eggplant with Chilies and Cilantro

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ½ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet-and-sour mint dressing


Heat the broiler and set an oven rack 6 inches from it. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange the eggplant on the foil and brush both sides with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Broil until well browned, about 10 minutes. Flip each slice and broil until well browned, another 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool. In a large bowl, combine the cilantro, chili-garlic sauce and dressing. Cut each eggplant slice into 6 pieces and toss with the dressing.

Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Mint

Start to finish: 45 minutes (10 minutes active)
Servings: 4


  • 2 medium heads cauliflower (about 4 pounds), cored and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons sweet-and-sour mint dressing


Heat the oven to 475ºF with an oven rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, combine the oil, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower and toss. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, reserving the bowl. Arrange the pieces cut side down. Roast until well browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool. In the reserved bowl, combine the mint with the dressing. Add the cauliflower and toss to coat.