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Tahini Cookies from Shalumit Yard

Big Traveling Potluck

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Actually, I have a recovering sweet tooth, being a formal SnackWell cookie binger.  Back in the mid-90s, I drank the fat-free KoolAid, existing on plain bagels, coffee with skim milk and sweetener, ‘light’ yogurt and bananas, brown rice, and fat free ice cream.  And I wondered why I never felt satisfied?  Why my knuckles cracked and bled?  No fat and whole lotta sugar (and artificial sweeteners—go figure).  Those were not healthy years.

It’s the same with all fad diets—give up something, obsess, binge, feel guilty, binge on something else.  But, that’s really a discussion for my other blog.

It took years for me to develop a healthy relationship with food, one that feels like a partnership.  Now, I choose food that nourishes me, keeps me healthy and makes me feel good.  Occasionally, that includes a burger and fries.  Often, it’s pasta (my favorite).  Sometimes it’s cookies and ice cream (Elie’s favorite).  Mostly, it must be delicious.  I’d much rather eat a small portion of scrumptious than a big portion of just so-so.

As I embraced fat and gave up giving up, over the years I lost my craving for sweet.  Our taste buds are quite miraculous in that way—they learn to love the ones they’re with.  So, if you eat kale all the time, eventually your taste buds will start to crave kale.  And if you stop feeding your taste buds sugar, eventually they’ll start to tell you, “Whoa, that cake is way too sweet!”  It’s pretty cool.

Tahini Cookies | Simmstown Blog | Lisa Samuel | www.lisasamuel.com
Tahini Cookies | Simmstown Blog | Lisa Samuel | www.lisasamuel.com
Tahini Cookies | Simmstown Blog | Lisa Samuel | www.lisasamuel.com
Tahini Cookies | Simmstown Blog | Lisa Samuel | www.lisasamuel.com

And, once we start giving ourselves permission to eat, we stop obsessing.  That feels good.

But for now, I’m going to talk about cookies, because cookies are still a part of a healthy, balanced way of eating.  A little salmon, a little cookie.  The sweets I’m drawn to are more butter than sugar, those with a savory edge.  They get bonus points for things like tarragon, chile peppers or fancy sea salt.

Or tahini.

Tahini Cookies | Simmstown Blog | Lisa Samuel | www.lisasamuel.com

We discovered these bite-sized treats while staying at Shulamit Yard in Rosh Pina, in the Galilee of Israel.  The owner, Shuli, kept jars of cookies in the kitchen for guests to have as a mid-afternoon (or midnight) snack.  When we left, Shuli graciously gave us the recipe, writing it down by memory, scribbling the metric-measured ingredients on a scrap of paper.  I tucked the paper into my purse and translated it as soon as I arrived home.

These are more shortbread than cookie, buttery and with earthy richness from the tahini.  If you can, visit a Mediterranean market to buy tahini produced in Israel or Lebanon.  It will give the cookies a better tahini flavor, as most tahini sold in the United States has a bitter aftertaste.  If you want to order the same tahini Shuli uses in her cookies (and the kind we bring home from Israel) , you can purchase it online here.  I buy the whole grain version of the tahini—I can eat it by the spoonful, or just spread it on toast like peanut butter.  It’s addictive, in a really good way.

Tahini Cookies | Simmstown Blog | Lisa Samuel | www.lisasamuel.com

I hope you enjoy them.

Tahini Cookies

Adapted from a recipe provided by Shuli, proprietor at Shulamit Yard in Rosh Pina, Israel.

Makes about 50 small cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup tahini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl.  Mix on high for a few minutes, until butter and sugar are whipped together and turn a light lemon color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the tahini and vanilla extract and blend again until the tahini is completely incorporated.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Add the flour mixture to the tahini mixture, stirring until just combined.  Do not overmix.

Using a small scoop or spoon, scoop out about a tablespoon of dough.  Form into a ball and place on a cookie sheet.  Once you have filled the cookie sheet, take the back of a spoon and press the top of each of the cookies down slightly to form a flat top.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before moving to a rack to cool completely.  The cookies will keep in an airtight container for a few days.

*If you don’t want to make the whole batch of cookies at once, this dough freezes well.  Just form a log of dough, making it the same circumference as you like your cookies to be.  Wrap the log well in plastic wrap and freeze.  When you want cookies, just slice off a few slices and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  The texture won’t be perfect, but they are still quite good!

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