Friday, May 16, 2014

Roasted Green Beans with Smokey Yogurt Tahini Sauce

I make and use tahini sauce A LOT. Tahini sauce comes from tahini paste, and tahini paste is made out of ground sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are full of magnesium and calcium, and other super good vitamins and minerals. My pantry is always stocked with back-up jars of tahini. Tahini on its own is a little bland, but with a few additional ingredients it's magic. I drizzle it on roasted eggplant, use it as a dressing on kale salads, and put it on whatever vegetable or protein that calls its name. It only takes a few minutes to make a good tahini sauce, and it adds so much flavor and goodness to whatever you're eating.

This week's CSA came with some lovely bright string beans. They were beautiful to look at, and tasted particularly fresh and beany, but their skins were a little tougher than normal. Generally, I prefer string beans that are small and delicate; the French call them haricot verts. I knew roasting the beans would soften and caramelize these tough guys, and so into the oven at high heat they went.

Roasted green beans are very good on their own, with some salt and pepper and maybe a squeeze of lemon... but roasted green beans with tahini sauce take these legumes to another level.

This version of tahini sauce includes yogurt for creaminess and tang, smoked paprika for smokiness and interest, sumac for complexity of flavor (optional), and lemon juice because lemon juice is everything to tahini.

Roasted Green Beans with Smokey Yogurt Tahini Sauce
Serves 4

for the beans:
1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
olive oil
salt and pepper
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

for the sauce:
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoons yogurt (I prefer plain whole milk, but any plain yogurt works, even Greek)
juice of half a lemon
2-3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425°F/215°C

Wash, dry and trim the ends off of your green beans. Lay the green beans onto a baking sheet. Drizzle them with a few tablespoons of good olive oil. Toss the beans with your hands until they are coated with the oil. If they don't seem coated enough, add a little more oil. Season the beans with salt and pepper.

Bake the beans in the oven for 15-25 minutes (roasting time will depend on the beans and your oven), or until they are golden browned and softened. Ten minutes into baking, take the beans out and shake them around a bit so that they brown evenly.  

While the beans are baking, make your tahini sauce. In a bowl, add your tahini paste, yogurt and lemon juice. The acid from the lemon juice will counterintuitively cause the tahini sauce to thicken and become unwieldy. This is where the warm water comes in. Add warm water, a tablespoon at a time, until you have thinned the sauce to your liking. If you over-water your sauce, just add a little more tahini and yogurt. No one will be mad at having extra sauce lying about. Once the sauce is thick or thin enough, add the olive oil. Season your sauce with smoked paprika (so nice and smokey!), sumac (it adds a lemony earthy flavor), fresh parsley, and salt and pepper. With all sauces and vinaigrettes, the balance of flavors depends entirely on your ingredients, and ingredients differ - from the juiciness and tartness of a lemon, to the smokiness of paprika - so taste, taste, taste, and adjust everything to your liking. Any extra sauce will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

To complete the dish, drizzle the beans with the sauce, sprinkle everything with sesame seeds and serve hot or  at room temp with extra sauce on the side. Extra sauce is always a good thing. Enjoy!

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