My recent trip to Japan inspired me to make a sesame seed based pesto. Modern Japanese cuisine has a lot of American influences, and one of the dishes prevalent in restaurants, even in 7-11 type of convenient stores, is pasta. However, they often mix Italian-American ingredients with familiar Japanese flavors. Pesto is traditionally made with basil and pine nuts, but I added a Japanese twist to it by substituting the pine nuts with sesame seeds. The aroma and flavor of the sesame seeds are really powerful, and can do a lot to change the taste of a dish.
Asian culture not only prizes sesame seeds for their taste and aroma, but also for their medicinal properties, especially for the treatment and prevention of hypertension, hyperlipidemia and cancer. Sesame contains two substances, called sesamin and sesamolin, that belong to a group of fibers called lignans. Studies show that lignans have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans. Sesamin also protects the liver from oxidative damage.
Current scientific studies also demonstrate that sesame oil is a powerful source of antioxidants and has the potential to protect cells from cancer-causing environmental damages. In addition, sesame seeds are a great source of calcium, manganese and iron. See here for more of their nutritional benefits.
A great way to incorporate these amazing super-seeds into your diet is by using them to make a sauce, spread or marinade. You can refer to my pesto entry for more ideas.
Below is my sesame and artichoke pesto recipe:
- ¼ cup of white sesame seeds
- 1 cup of basil
- ¼ cup of artichoke hearts
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 2 tbs of lemon juice
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- ¼ cup of water
- Mix all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. (For Vitamix: first set variable to 4-5 in low for 15 seconds, then high for 5-10 seconds)
- Add the water into the blender and blend to desired amount of thickness. (Note: You may have to double the amount of water used if you want to use the pesto as a sauce or marinade.)
Harikumar KB, et al. Sesamin manifests chemopreventive effects through the suppression of NF-kappa B-regulated cell survival, proliferation, invasion, and angiogenic gene products. Mol Cancer Res. 2010 May;8(5):751-61. PMID: 20460401