So we're sure you already know that nuts and seeds are a great plant based source of protein, but have you ever noticed that some nuts and seeds seem to get more attention than others? The last time you were reaching for a nut/seed to top a salad what did you pick? A good guess would be almond, walnut or sunflower seeds as some popular choices. Well, we are here to remind you about the nutritional benefits and culinary uses for the sesame seed! We know what you're probably thinking- aren't sesame seeds pretty much just a decorative sprinkle to top foods and add a little flavor? Let's find out...
Okay so it's true, our salad is topped with sunflower seeds but the powerful sesame seed in our homemade dressing is the true star of this dish. So what's so fabulous about sesame? Well first, sesame is the oldest known plant cultivated for it's seeds and oil, meaning history is trying to tell us something! Sesame seed is used frequently in Asian cuisine and the paste created from ground seeds (tahini) is common in Middle Eastern, North African, Greek and Turkish dishes. Sesame seeds are a nutritional powerhouse and are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. A two tablespoon serving of seeds contains 35% of your daily intake of copper, two grams of fiber and three grams of protein. It is important to note that this nutritional value is true of the whole sesame seed. To make tahini the seeds are pre-soaked and then crushed in order to separate the bran (fiber) from the kernel (heart of the seed). The hulling process (removing the outer skin) does decrease the total amount of calcium, fiber, iron, and potassium in tahini though it remains a source of these nutrients and high in protein- now five grams per two tablespoon serving. The flavor of tahini is nutty and slightly bitter so pairs well with sweet ingredients (think tahini and fig jam!). Tahini is a common ingredient in hummus and baba ganoush (eggplant dip). In some countries it is used as a spread over toast and topped with jam or preserves. One of our favorite ways to use tahini is in homemade salad dressing because of it's bold flavor. So that means if you make this salad please buy some tahini and make the dressing too, no cheating!
The Early Spring Salad
PREP TIME: 25 mins
TOTAL TIME: 30 mins
4 -5 cups arugula
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
small bunch of multicolor radishes
small bunch of asparagus
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
sprinkle of sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/3 cup tahini paste
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp water
1/8 tsp sea salt
In a medium size pot, bring 1/2 cup pearl barley and 1 1/4 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and allow barley to cook for about 40 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff barley with a fork and set in the fridge to cool.
Wash and chop asparagus into 2" pieces, cut on the bias (45 degree angle). Add olive oil to a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Once oil is warm add asparagus and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside to cool.
For the dressing combine the tahini, lemon, garlic, water, and salt in a bowl. Whisk with a fork into a creamy consistency, set aside. Sprinkle sunflower seeds with salt and toast in a dry pan for about 5 minutes over medium heat until seeds are browned and fragrant.
Wash and slice radishes paper thin. We used a mandolin here which works perfectly. If you do not have a mandolin, carefully cut radishes as thin as you can using a large chefs knife.
Now it's time to assemble the salad! Using a large " family style" bowl layer the ingredients starting with the arugula. Top arugula with cooked pearl barley, tender asparagus, sliced radishes, and toasted sunflower seeds. Generously drizzle tahini dressing over the top. Sprinkle with additional sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
Now wasn't that the most perfect bite? The delicate flavor of early spring veggies with the rich tahini tang combine to make this a salad that will definitely need a second serving. And we hope you'll remember the sesame seed next time you experiment in the kitchen. Now finish up and go enjoy the early spring sun!
Jess and Cecelia
Jess and Cecelia welcome you to our kitchen. We are fun-loving and passionate foodies working to make the world a healthier, happier place one plant based recipe at a time.