Gomashio, a condiment made with toasted sesame seeds and salt, is the perfect topping to sprinkle on a variety of meals for enhanced flavor. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Gomashio, toasted sesame seeds crushed with salt, has proved itself a magic ingredient around this house. If you have ever eaten a toasted sesame seed bagel you know how very good sesame can taste. Now imagine that flavor in lots of dishes.

I remember making gomashio back in the mid-1970s and keeping a little bowlful of it on the dining table to use any time. Then I stopped, though I can’t recall why. Our friend Cris came back from Italy this winter having enjoyed it with his macrobiotic friend Paolo in the mountains outside of Florence. So Cris ground some up and adorned sauteed chicken with it, and we have sprinkled it on every third thing ever since.

Besides the rich flavor, gomashio has the characteristic of increasing a salty flavor in food without increasing the salt. It is a blessing for folks watching their salt intake and not wanting to forgo salt.

You can use hulled or unhulled sesame. The usual proportion of seeds to salt is around 12 to 15 parts of sesame to one part of salt. One toasts the seeds on a broad saute pan, watching very carefully not to scorch them. Koshering salt, or at least sea salt, is the best choice. It helps to use a mortar and pestle for grinding the seeds and salt together, but you can use anything that works to crush and combine the two ingredients. If you put it in a little jar with a shaker top, you’ll have the easiest possible way to add it to anything.

Here is what to do with it:

— Add to plain sauteed chicken slices or baked fish filets.

— Sprinkle onto green salad.

— Sprinkle on scrambled or soft-boiled eggs or on an omelet.

— Sprinkle on a piece of toast lightly spread with peanut butter.

— Add to cottage cheese.

— Shake gomashio on top of appetizer crackers spread with soft cheese like cream cheese or goat cheese.

— Spread soft cheese on a rib of celery and sprinkle with gomashio, then cut into snack lengths.

— Add to cooked pasta tossed with garlic and olive oil, and if you wish, toasted pine nuts.

— Garnish steamed asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and others with gomashio.

If you find you like it well enough, you may end up adding it to your morning oatmeal, or to an egg salad sandwich or garnishing a bowl of pea soup. Any time that a little savory saltiness is called for, gomashio is the ticket.


Makes about one cup of gomashio

1 cup of sesame seeds

1 tablespoon of salt

Set a saute pan over a medium-low heat, and spread a thin layer of seeds in it.

Stir the seeds or shake the pan until the seeds begin to turn golden. Don’t allow them to get very dark.

Repeat until all the seeds are toasted.

Place the toasted seeds in a mortar with the salt, dividing the amount if needed so the mortar is not too full to use the pestle.

Crush and grind them together until the seeds look broken and the salt grains are not distinguishable but do not turn it into a paste. You’ll smell the rich aroma of the toasted seeds.

Store in a jar for use.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...