One ingredient Yotam Ottolenghi can't live without

 Roasted squash with tahini and za'atar

Every cook has a short list of "can't live without" ingredients, including popular chef Yotam Ottolenghi. His list includes olive oil, lemons, coffee and - the one thing he says he can't live without - tahini. He prefers Middle Eastern-made versions to Greek or Cypriot varieties. The difference between the two, he says, is that the Middle Eastern version is smoother and less bitter.  

Ottolenghi uses tahini in a variety of foods from appetizers to desserts. "Rare is the dish not improved with a drizzle of tahini sauce, made from simply mixing raw tahini with some lemon juice, water, garlic and salt," he says. From meats to fish to vegetables, tahini enriches the dish. 

Tahini's nutty flavor works well in desserts, too. Ottolenghi makes tahini cookies and cakes, halvah ice cream, and halvah-studded brownies with an additional swirl of tahini. The chef even uses tahini as an ice cream topping. 

Photo of Roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini & za'atar from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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