Every time I eat at Cava, a wonderful fast-food restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean bowls, I ask for their lemon-herb-tahini dressing. It’s wildly flavorful, featuring zingy lemon, fresh herby flavors, the nutty, earthy aromas of ground sesame and a garlicky kick at the end. It’s not exactly subtle, but that’s what makes it such a perfetct partner to Mediterranean food with all its exciting aromas, textures and colors.
In addition to its deliciousness, I love how nutritious this dressing is, boasting whole-food ingredients that provide a multitude of powerful nutrients:
- Tahini contains vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, as well as the lignan sesamin, a compound that has shown antioxidant potential in some studies and may help lower cancer risk and protect the liver from free radical damage. More more informaiton and scientific references, read this Healthline article.
- Cilantro is packed with antioxidants that may have anticancer, immune-boosting, and neuroprotective effects, according to test-tube and animal studies. It is also thought to have blood-sugar-lowering effects, may lower cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, is thought to protect the brain, promote healthy digestion and help remove heavy metals form the body. Healthline article here.
- Parsley supplies even more — and different — antioxidants, in particular the flavonoids myricetin and apigenin. Studies have found that diets rich in flavonoids may lower your risk of colon cancer, type-2 diabetes and heart disease, among others. Parsley is also rich in vitamin K — an essential nutrient for bone health — and three carotenoids that help protect your eyes and promote healthy vision: lutein, beta carotene, and zeaxanthin. Healthline article here.
- Lemons are packed with vitamin C, pectin (a fiber that helps us feel satiated), may help prevent kidney stones, can imrpove digestive health and blood glucose balance, and are linked to reduced cancer risk. Healthline article here.
- Garlic, finally, has a wide range of health benefits, including immune support, helping reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, antioxidants that may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, improved athletic performance, heavy metal detoxification and bone health. Healthline article here.
And you know what? You don;t need to know any of this. All you need to remember is: if you eat all these foods regularly, along with other nutrient-packed, fresh foods, they will be likley to support your health in subtle ways.
Of course, some of these ingredients don’t agree with everyone. For instance, many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) don’t tolerate garlic. To some people, cilantro tastes like soap (these folks have a variation in a group of olfactory-receptor genes that allows them to strongly perceive the soapy-flavored aldehydes in cilantro leaves); if that’s you, just leave out the cilantro and go all-parsley, or add mint, dill, basil, oregano or any other fresh herb you enjoy.
This sauce is a perfect topping or dressing for:
- Ful medames (Egyptian brunch dish of fava beans & toppings; recipe here)
- Mediterranean salads or bowls comprising legumes, vegetables, whole grains and protein toppings
- Chicken shawarma plates (recipe coming soon)
- Mediterranean coleslaw – just toss shredded
- Bean & greens salad – cooked cannelini beans or chickpeas, arugula & red onions tossed in this dressing = super-quick and delicious
- Egg salad (like this recipe, only with herby flavors and a greenish hue)
- Pasta (toss high-protein pasta, cooked al dente, in this sauce (reheat gently on half-power in the microwave); read about “less-carb”, low-glycemic ways to enjoy pasta in this blog post & recipe
Tahini herb sauce
- 1 high-speed blender
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¼ cup water ice cold
- ¼ cup lemon juice freshly pressed
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup (packed) cilantro (fresh coriander) can include stems
- ½ cup parsley leaves only
- a smidgen maple syrup optional
- Combine all the ingredinets in a blender. Process until you obtain a smooth texture and more or less uniformly green color. Season to taste with salt, lemon juice and maple syuop (optional; this can help mellow the gutsy flavors of tahini, lemon & raw garlic.)
- Transfer to a clean, dry glass jar or bottle and refrigerate immediately. Can be used right away, bnut I find the flavors meld and mellow more after an hour or more in the frdige.
- This keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days.