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Delights from the Garden of Eden

By Nawal Nasrallah

Published 2019

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Tahini (sesame paste, rashi) is a smooth thin paste made from ground toasted sesame seeds. In medieval Arabic sources, it was called taheen simsim (ground sesame), and rahshi (derived from the Arabic verb rahasha ‘to grind into fine particles’), from which our modern Iraqi rashi definitely evolved. Besides being used in cooking, tahini was smeared on bread the way we do nowadays with peanut butter, as one of al-Warraq’s tenth-century recipes clearly demonstrates. Medieval physicians recommended having tahini with honey or date syrup to help it pass through the digestive system faster. I find this most interesting because it sheds light on the rationale behind the custom of combining tahini and date syrup in a very traditional sweet condiment called dibis w’rashi, that is, besides the fact that together they taste intoxicatingly scrumptious ( for recipe).