Sunday, March 11, 2012

All About Tahini

Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds which has its origins in the Arabic countries of the Mediterranean. Although delicious by itself on bread or toast it is often blended with other ingredients to make sauces, dressings, dips and spreads or used as an ingredient in pies and casseroles etc. as well as in sweet dishes such as cheesecakes, cakes and puddings.
Tahini is a fairly concentrated nutritional food source. It is one of the best sources of vitamins E, F, and T as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B15, Biotin and Choline. It is also a fair source of vitamin A. Tahini also rich in amino acids and essential minerals and is 20% complete protein, being richer in protein than milk, soya beans, sunflower seeds and most nuts.
It is one of the richest sources of Methionine (an essential amino acid) and also contains natural lecithin, which reduces blood fat levels and provides protection from environmental pollutants such as nicotine. Tahini also supplies significant amounts of the minerals magnesium, potassium, iron and phosphorous and even larger amounts of the mineral calcium. In fact Tahini is reputed to be the best food source of calcium there is but unlike dairy products which are the traditional source of calcium in a Western diet it is not mucous forming. Our tahini is processed using very slow moving stone mills which minimizes the heating of the seeds and ensures maximum retention of nutrients. Conventional tahini made using high speed roller mills is heated to such a temperature that vital nutrients are destroyed in the process. Tahini manufactured in this way also tends to separate out leaving the ground seeds on the bottom of the container, very hard and dry, and a thick layer of oil floating on top. On the other hand there is only very minimal separation in tahini made using the stone milling method.
Despite its high oil content tahini has excellent keeping qualities and will not go rancid even if left unrefigerated after opening. This is because sesame contains the natural preservatives sesamin and sesamol which stabalise it over long periods. The tahini made with unhulled seeds is more vitamin and mineral rich than that made with the hulled seeds but it is also darker and stronger in flavour.

All about Dates

Dates: A Nutritional Powerhouse

*California dates are sodium-free, fat-free (including saturated fat-free), cholesterol-free and provide 14% of the RDA for dietary fibre.
*A serving of dates contains 31 grams of carbohydrates which are readily assimilated by the body making dates a perfect choice as an energy-boosting snack.
*Only 23 calories per serving (5-6 whole dates, or 1/4-cup pitted dates, equal one serving).
*One serving of California dates contains 240 mg of potassium, or 7% of the RDA for this essential nutrient. In fact, weight for weight, dates contain more potassium than bananas. Potassium is an essential mineral needed by the body to maintain muscle contractions (including the vital heart muscle), a healthy nervous system and to help with the body's metabolism. This is an important consideration for physically active people since the body's supply of potassium can be reduced through perspiration. Eating California dates and drinking water is an ideal, natural way to replenish the body's need for potassium.
*California dates contain a variety of B-complex vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and pantothenic acid. B vitamins help metabolize carbohydrates and maintain blood glucose levels and fatty acids for energy. They also help make hemoglobin, the red and white blood cells.
*One serving of California dates provides 4% of the RDA for magnesium, an essential nutrient for healthy bone development.
Medicinal Uses
The fruit, because of its tannin content, is used medicinally as a detersive (detergent) and astringent in intestinal troubles. In the form of an infusion, decoction, syrup or paste, it is administered as a treatment for sore throat, colds and bronchial catarrh. Can also be taken to relieve fever, cystisis, gonorrhea, edema, liver and abdominal troubles. Has also been used to counteract alcohol intoxication.
Date Varieties
"Semi-dry" dates have firmer flesh and a relatively lower moisture content than "soft" varieties. The Deglet Noor ("Date of Light"), a medium-large, oblong and amber-coloured date and the Zahidi ("Nobility"), a smaller, more egg-shaped and golden-coloured date, are the most popular semi-dry varieties.
Although the total sugars in the semi-dry dates are approximately equal to those in the softer dates, the sugars have not fully inverted. Rather, the semi-dry dates contain about 50% inverted sugars and 50% sucrose. Since they are firmer, semi-dry dates can be harvested mechanically, can be processed successfully and can be held in moisture-proof packaging with little deterioration.
Called the "Date of Light," a semi-dry date, possesses a delicate flavour and is long and firm-textured in appearance, with a colour range from light red to amber. Makes up 90% of California's crop.
The connoisseur's date: large, firm but moist, with a rich mahogany colour, Medjools are a must for gift tray arrangements.
Named for the hot Arabic winds called "Barh," this is a late-ripening date with a medium-thin skin which can be easily split. Small and round, Barhis are soft, syrupy-tasting dates with tender, firm flesh. Since they are so very fragile and to minimize handling, Barhis can be purchased in a pre-packed 5-lb box as well as in full case lots of 12 lbs. Barhis must be kept refrigerated.
  A soft date with many desirable qualities. They ripen to amber, then are cured to a reddish brown, with a caramel-like texture and a sweet flavour.
  A soft date with thick flesh, caramelly and sweet, somewhat wrinkled in appearance, with a yellow colour ripening to a light amber and then to a golden brown.