October brings many wonderful things, like mashed sweet potatoes, beautiful golden leaves, and all the fun of Halloween. I love fall and all that comes with it! With one exception: the next season. Winter makes me frown. As someone living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where it isn't uncommon to walk to the bus in -15º F temperatures, I dread the coming of winter. My SOS co-host Ricki, from Diet,Dessert, and Dogs has similar sentiments about the snowy season. In an attempt to mitigate the impending chill this October, we present you with another Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge--this time, with a special twist. So read on, learn about our latest key ingredient, and join in on the fun!
Now, you've most likely heard or read about at least one of the "superfood" seeds currently being touted all over the internet: flax, chia, hemp. And while all three are wonderfully nutritious and offer all manner of health benefits, they sometimes overshadow the more common specimens that are equally healthy in their own right. This month, we're focusing on one of those better-known seeds...
Sesame seeds are inexpensive, delicious, packed with nutritional benefits--and available year-round. In other words, a perfect ingredient for our first SOS Challenge of autumn!
A sesame plant. Source
According to one of my favorite websites, World's Healthiest Foods, sesame seeds (sesamum indicum) "may be the oldest condiment known to man dating back to as early as 1600 BC." One Assyrian myth, in fact, claims that the gods drank sesame wine right before they created the earth. They are also considered to be the first seed that was cultivated specifically for their unique taste and are the most cultivated seed at present. And who is not familiar with the common expression, "open sesame"? The term refers to the manner in which the seed pods burst open when the seeds are mature, and was introduced in the classic legend by Ali Baba in the Thousand and One Nights.
These tiny, oval gems (available in a varietyof shades from beige to brown to red to black) are also a highly nutritious food, one that is a staple in most vegan households because of their high calcium content. Tahini (sesame paste) or nondairy milk made with sesame can add a valuable boost to your calcium intake. In fact, sesame seeds offer up a good variety of other minerals, too: they're considered a "very good" source of manganese and copper, plus a "good" source of magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. In addition, they contain two types of lignans (sesamin and sesamolin), antioxidant-like substances known to help stave off all kinds of chronic illnesses, from high blood pressure to liver damage; and they can help lower cholesterol levels.
And they're not just for hamburger buns any more! Sesame seeds lend themselves to all kinds of cooking. Like many seeds and nuts, they can be lightly toasted to bring out their optimum flavor. If ground to a paste, they produce tahini, a key ingredient in all kinds of Middle Eastern foods from hummus to falafel. I also love using it in place of nut butters in much of my cooking, from sauces to desserts. They're also the key ingredient in one of my favorite seasonings, Japanese gomashio, which I sprinkled here.
It's worth noting that our digestive tracts are unable to break down the outer hull on the seeds, so whole seeds will serve only as a source of insoluble (unabsorbed) fiber and will pass through your system intact. To benefit from the sesame oil inside the seeds, they need to be cracked or ground.
Whole seeds can be stored at room temperature for several weeks; or freeze for longer storage periods. Once the hull is cracked, however, the seeds must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. An exception is sesame oil, which is incredibly stable and resists rancidity even over long periods of time and changes in temperature.
And now to make this month even more fun. . .
For the first time, October's SOS event will feature a guest sponsor--and prizes! We are thrilled to announce that iHerb, the extensive supplier of all things natural and healthy, is sponsoring our giveaway. By contributing your recipe using sesame seeds (or sesame paste or sesame oil), you can enter to win one of ten bags of organic sesame seeds, or a grand prize of a $50 shopping spree from iHerb!
Here's how to enter
- Post a new recipe (either your own or someone else's) that features sesame seeds to your blog. Make sure that it follows the usual SOS guidelines, then enter it in the Linky below, and put a link in your post to this month's SOS kickoff page. Deadline for entry is October 31, 2010.
- If you wish to be entered to win any of the iHerb prizes, register with iHerb, here.
- The first ten entries of people who've registered with iHerb (either new accounts or existing accounts) will each receive a bag of organic sesame seeds. (If you prefer not to register, that's fine--but you won't be eligible for any of the prizes.)
- Once all the entries are submitted, we'll randomly choose one to win the "grand prize." Everyone is eligible for the grand prize, even if you already won one of the ten bags of seeds!
- Ricki and I will post a round-up at the end of the month announcing winners and showcasing the recipes.
As always, we look forward to your incredible recipes and can't wait to see what you whip up! We were astounded by your whopping 36 entries last time and can't wait to see what pops up on the SOS page this month!