Seriously. During the past few years, America's top chefs have been on a serious bender for far-flung seasoning blends. Which is why za'atar (which seemingly can be spelled a dozen or more ways) has become a darling of the restaurant scene. The Middle Eastern blend of sesame seeds, sumac and what-have-you is regularly sprinkled on all manner of dips, grilled meats and roasted vegetables.
Ditto for ras el hanout (also a victim of numerous spellings), a North African blend of all sorts of delicious things, including cumin, allspice, cinnamon and paprika, among many (many!) other choices.
And now gomasio is starting to show up on menus. And while it, too, can be spelled a variety of ways, its ingredient list is blissfully simple. And that makes it an easy choice for making at home. Gomasio is a Japanese dry seasoning blend made from lightly ground sesame seeds and salt. Some variations — in my mind, the better ones — also include toasted seaweed.
I first learned to make gomasio back in my (long ago) macrobiotic days. The mostly vegan macrobiotic diet favours gomasio over plain salt as a seasoning for grains and vegetables. It lends a savory, lightly crunchy, delicately salty flavour to whatever you sprinkle it over. It's great on seafood, vegetables, grains, grilled meats, hummus, buttered or oil-drizzled bread, or even bread smeared with peanut or cashew butter.
You can buy gomasio (usually sold in small jars in the Asian or natural foods aisle), but it is much better and cheaper to make it yourself. And it's easy to do.
Gomasio traditionally is made using a suribachi, a Japanese-style mortar and pestle. The interior of a suribachi has sharp ridges, which make it excellent for grinding nuts and seeds. But a food processor works just as well.
Start to finish: 10 minutes
Makes 1 cup
1 cup hulled sesame seeds
1/4 cup dried wakame seaweed (sold in the Asian aisle)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a small skillet over low heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring constantly, until lightly golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the sesame seeds to a food processor. Return the skillet to the heat and add the seaweed. Toast the seaweed, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the seaweed and the salt to the processor.
Pulse the processor on and off for about 30 seconds. The mixture should be mostly, but not entirely ground. There should still be some whole sesame seeds. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool. Cover and store at room temperature for several weeks.
Nutrition information per tablespoon: 35 calories; 25 calories from fat (71 per cent of total calories); 3 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 150 mg sodium; 1 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 1 g protein.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org