Growing up in the Eastern Bloc in the ‘80s there were so many fruits, vegetables and various cooking ingredients we didn’t know about, had never seen or tasted. Once the Berlin wall fell and the frontiers opened, we could finally travel the world which also meant slowly getting to know the cuisine of the world. I say slowly, because those who would travel from Central & Eastern Europe at the end of ‘80s/early ‘90s would definitely not spend their money on restaurants. And, yes, at that time the corner kebab stand would’ve been in the expensive category for us. As tourists we would eat like the poorest students: canned foods and other cheap supermarket stuff to leave money for visiting as many cities as possible, their museums, galleries and last but not least to take home some “western” souvenirs we’d been longing for for decades. Souvenirs that would range from a real pair of Levi’s or a real pair of Adidas (and not the Yugoslav counterfeit version), to VCR tapes of films that had been banned to copies of Playboy because yep, for some that also represented the freedom of the West. As you can see, initially we concentrated less on getting knowledgeable about lobsters, white truffles, foie gras or Jamón Ibérico de bellota …
With the passing of time, and then of course with the arrival of Internet it became much easier to learn about different cuisines, even without travelling. Despite the globalization Internet entailed, certain ingredients completely slipped out of my radar for a long time. Among them tahini. When I discovered tahini years ago it was of course in Lebanese restaurants, as central ingredient in recipes such as hummus or baba ghanoush. The first time I myself bought this thick, oily paste I thought it mostly looked like beige mud. But I did my research and knew it was rich in protein, Vitamins B and E and that it was one of the best sources of calcium out there. Now I just had to learn how to use it! For a long time I assumed this creamy nut butter was solely used for salty dishes or dips and I had only been preparing home-made hummus or tahini-apple cider vinegar dressing with it. When I understood halva is made with tahini – halva that I used to eat occasionally as a child when someone travelled to Romania and brought home a can of this very sweet, dense dessert – I discovered that I could add tahini to my smoothies, cookies and cakes. And what a sweet revelation that has been!
This chocolate chip cookie with tahini and orange zest is a wonderful combination. Tahini gives a nuttiness and soft texture while the orange zest gives a nice citrus tang to the sweetness of the cookie dough and chocolate chips. One more sweet thing about this recipe: the preparation time is really short, and you hardly mess up your kitchen with it! Unless you do it with your kids as I did…
What you’ll need for about 15 cookies:
- 70g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 140g light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 140g tahini
- 1 pouch of vanilla sugar (7.5g)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½tsp baking powder
- zest of one large orange, organic if possible
- 200g flower
- 30g chocolate chips
- a pinch of surprise
What you’ll need to do:
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- In a large bowl beat together the butter softened at room temperature with the sugar until fluffy.
- Add the eggs one by one, incorporating them well in the batter.
- Now add the tahini, vanilla sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
- Grate in the zest of one large orange. If possible buy organic orange, otherwise clean the skin well with a veggie was to wash away the chemicals citrus fruits are treated with after harvest. Combine well.
- Now slowly add the flower, combine well and finally add the chocolate chip cookies.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make about 15 scoops of dough on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookie edges are brown.