Simple mezze: Tahini with roasted pepper and herbs

I’m not sure I cracked the secret of the secret tahini, but my not-so-secret version is good nonetheless.

A few days ago, we were at a vegetarian restaurant called Mezze for the first time. The restaurant isn’t new; how it is that it took us so long to visit a vegetarian restaurant in Tel Aviv, I do not know. But nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves.

Mezze prides itself in its tahini, which is normally not my favorite food. But the menu recommends customers order at least one of the tahinis on offer, and the mezze spread we received with our breakfast happened to include the “secret” tahini. It was much better than any tahini I’d ever had, mostly because it was way more than ground sesame seeds — it was packed full of herbs and other flavor elements.

We savored every bite, trying to decipher the secret. Then, I gave it a try at home, with my best guess as to what went in. I can’t say the result is exactly the same — the secret will remain a secret — but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

Note: This recipe calls for half a roasted pepper. Roasting half a pepper isn’t so practical. Neither is roasting one pepper. I tend to roast four or five at a time, to maximize use of my oven. Your options include roasting enough peppers to make a roasted pepper salad and setting half a pepper aside for this recipe, or roasting a single pepper/half pepper in your toaster oven.

For 1 cup of tahini:

1/4 cup tahini (pure sesame paste)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons parsley
1 tablespoon mint leaves
1 tablespoon silan
2 tablespoons roasted red pepper (half a pepper)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (from half a lemon)

Split a pepper in half, and roast it in an oven or a toaster oven for about 30 minutes until the pepper is soft and the skin is blistered. Peel off the blistered skin.

Mix your tahini before pouring out 1/4 cup (if it sits too long, the sesame oil separates from the solids). Roughly chop the herbs. Blend all ingredients together. I blended them with a hand-held stick blender in a tall glass. You can make the tahini thinner and runnier by adding more water.

Serve with bread, vegetable sticks or however you please.

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