My friend Shelly would say I’m expensive. She likes to point out the cost of everything and lately it’s hard to ignore just how steeply the price of housing a large collection of cooking equipment has risen here in booming Toronto. Do I really need a bean Frencher? Or a dozen 7-inch cake pans? A dehydrator, 5 woks, a foot-high stack of slightly different grill pans, loaf pans in 6 sizes, 17 ice cube trays, a fry cutter, 3 mandolines, an icepick, a cherry pitter? Giving these things a home doesn’t come cheap. I take comfort only in knowing that I’ve amassed this collection for work, but still, it’s time for a fucking yard sale.
All this nonsense is housed in a large room closer to the front door than it is to my kitchen. Rarely, if ever, does any of this equipment find it’s way into use outside of my work life. Upstairs, in the calm of my own kitchen, there are just enough pots and bowls to get by, a toaster, one non-stick frying pan, a single drawer of hand tools and another of small electric tools: an immersion blender, an electric mixer, and the like. No stand mixer (though there are two of them downstairs), no tart tins, no loaf pans, no deep fryer, no microwave, no idiotic spiralizer. The cupboards contain a single set of dishes, plain white china – good enough for company, modest and sturdy enough for everyday. Save for a few books, a couple of coffeemakers (obviously the most important appliances in the house) and a blender, there’s little on the counter. I rarely make room in the kitchen for something new, and almost never for single-purpose gadgets.
The most noteworthy additions of the last few years have been the aforementioned blender, a Vitamix, and a stovetop smoker. Both have become indispensable, used-often tools that help turn out delicious new things. Like today’s dressing.
It’s a two-parter. Firstly, homemade smoked almonds are turned into a tahini hybrid, then that smoky silky tahini is turned into a dressing you’ll want to eat with everything.
You don’t need either piece of equipment, truth be told, in order to arrive at the finished dressing. The stovetop smoker can be rigged from a foil-lined wok and a round perforated pizza pan. While it will be difficult to make the stand-alone tahini from the smoked almonds without a high-powered blender, the resulting dressing can be coaxed smoother, once all of the other ingredients are added, in a regular, less expensive blender.
- 2 cups (500 mL) raw skin-on almonds
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) fine applewood smoking chips
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) fine mesquite smoking chips
- 1 cup (250 mL) sesame seeds
- ½ cup (125 mL) grapeseed, peanut, or roasted almond oil
- If using the wok for other purposes, line bottom with a piece foil roughly 6 x 6 inches (15 x 15 cm). Sprinkle smoking chips into bottom of pan (contained to the foil if using). Arrange a round perforated pizza pan snugly into wok and level; ensure there is at least 2 inches (5 cm) headroom from the top of the wok.
- Spread almonds out evenly over pizza pan in a single layer and cover the wok thouroughly with foil to prevent any smoke from escaping. Place on stovetop over high heat for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low; smoke for 8 additional minutes, 10 minutes total. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, in wok until cooled to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, arrange sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in a 375°F (190 °C) oven for 8 minutes or until light golden. Let cool.
- In a high-powered blender, combine 1 cup (250 mL) of the smoked almonds (reserve remaining almonds for another purpose) with the toasted sesame seeds and the oil. With power on low, coarsely grind mixture, about 1 minute; gradually increase speed to about 60% of maximum and continue to process until smooth and glossy. Run through a fine-meshed sieve to for an ultra-smooth tahini, otherwise may be used as is.
- ½ cup (125 ml) smoked almond tahini (see method above)
- ¼ cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅓ cup (80 mL) warm water
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tsp (2 mL) ground cumin
- Salt & freshly
- In a small bowl, whisk together all but the salt and pepper; season to taste. Dressing will keep, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Return to room temperature before using.
- grilled beef or lamb kebabs
- the best falafel sauce
- spoon on top of lamb burgers
- drizzled over grilled and deeply charred, soft skin-on sweet potatoes
- used to dress roasted cauliflower or broccoli