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One of my favorite flavors is sesame, and I find myself gravitating toward it, whether it be sesame oil, sesame seeds, or even the Persian confectionary called halva. There’s a sesame salad dressing that I frequently purchase, and it has become a staple in my home. Its uses go beyond flavoring lettuce.
While I am a proponent of homemade food, from stock to growing vegetables from kitchen scraps, it never occurred to me to make my own sesame dressing. I have made salad dressing before, one go-to being a garlicky, vinegary one my father came up with years ago, but never had I made one with sesame.
That was until I discovered this recipe from The Kitchen’s Maleyna Nomura, which combines both sesame and honey in a rich and creamy sauce. Each ingredient adds something unique: the sesame seeds give the nuttiness, the mayonnaise, the richness, the rice vinegar, the pique, and the honey, the roundness. Soy sauce gives the necessary salt to the sesame oil base.
A key step is to toast the sesame seeds before grinding them. This will enhance the seeds nutty flavor. Toasting is easy to do in a skillet over the stove.
The other key step is in the grinding of the seeds. The best way to pulverize sesame seeds is with something called a suribachi, or a Japanese mortar and pestle. This little bowl has grooves on its side that act like a grater and makes grinding small seeds a breeze. I don’t have a suribachi, so I used my mortar and pestle. Another option is a coffee grinder which will cut your prep time considerably.
To further save time you can throw everything in a food processor and pulse until combined well, but this feels like cheating somehow (plus I don’t have a good food processor.)
This recipe will make about 1/2 cup of dressing.
- 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Place 1/4 cup white sesame seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, place together 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari, and 2 teaspoons honey in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Coarsely grind the sesame seeds in a suribachi or mortar and pestle, or pulse 2 to 3 times in a coffee or spice grinder. Add to the dressing and whisk to combine.
This salad dressing has many great uses besides salad. Here are some suggestions that go beyond humble lettuce:
- Shred cabbage and thinly slice or julienne carrots and pour in dressing and mix to create a slaw.
- Cut carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower and arrange on a platter. Pour dressing in a small bowl and place in the middle as a dip.
- Take a grain bowl or poke bowl and drizzle dressing over everything.
- Roast or grill meat, portobella mushroom or tofu and serve alongside as a sauce.
- Cut up some potatoes, roast, and drizzle dressing over the top as a gravy.
You can watch a technique on how to make sesame honey salad dressing here.