While black sesame seeds aren’t local or seasonal in the Northwest, they’re a perfect Asian-style accompaniment to many spring vegetables that are, like broccoli rabe, scallions, spinach, pea shoots and asparagus. In Heidi Swanson’s brand new book, Super Natural Every Day, I came across a photograph of soba noodles with a black sesame paste that made me want to eat some right then and there. If you’re not familiar with Heidi’s books or blog, 101 Cookbooks, she has a wonderful knack for combining vegetarian ingredients in ways that are both nourishing and enticing. Not to mention, her gorgeous photographs provide a constant source of inspiration for me.
Black sesame seeds are so loaded with calcium, protein, phosphorous, iron and magnesium they easily qualify as a super-food. They’re even used strictly for medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese medicine. I made my version of Heidi’s black sesame paste, which reminds me of a salty-sweet-savory pesto that adds an extra flavor dimension to just about anything you put it on.
1t pine nuts
1t sunflower seeds
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1 1/2 T natural cane sugar (I used demerara sugar)
1 1/2 T tamari sauce
1 1/2 t mirin
2 T brown rice vinegar
1T toasted sesame oil
Directions: Toast pine nuts and sunflower seeds in large skillet over medium heat until golden, shaking the pan regularly.
Add the sesame seeds to pan and toast for a minute or two just until you smell a hint of toasted sesame. With the black color, it’s easy to over-cook so be vigilant.
Transfer seeds and nuts to food processor (or mortar & pestle) along with the rest of the ingredients and grind to a paste. Adjust amounts to your own taste — I added more sesame oil.
I tried it on practically every dish I made for several days and loved them all, especially with the soba noodles that I just HAD to have after seeing her photo.
I made a sauce similar to a pasta sauce with about 1/3 cup of the soba noodle cooking water with some of the black sesame paste along with lightly steamed broccoli rabe and garlic scallions from the farmers market and fresh chives from the garden. It was delicious warm for dinner and cold the next day for lunch.
Also tried it with my Fried Rice with Egg and Pea Shoots recipe and once again, loved the extra flavor oomph it added while making the dish even more nutritious.
If you’re in the mood for adding an exotic touch to spring veggies, be open to black sesame seeds . Even lightly toasted and sprinkled on top for the visual effect alone, they’re worth a try.