Discovering a new ingredient can be a revelation. When I first toasted black sesame seeds for my recent post, The Definitive Watermelon Herb & Spice Pairing Guide, I became almost giddy with joy. Toasting the seeds and putting them on cubed watermelon turned a perfectly fine after dinner treat into an elegant and simple watermelon dessert that I would be happy to serve after a multi-course meal with full tablecloth and cloth napkin regalia.
That’s not to say you need white damask to serve watermelon cubes with toasted black sesame seeds. A picnic table with paper goods and plasticware will do just fine too. Whether it follows vichyssoise or barbecue, this aromatic dessert is a winner.
I got the idea from Serious Eats, a blog filled with good ideas, interesting recipes, and fascinating articles about ingredients, cooking equipment and the science behind home cooking. If you don’t know it, you should definitely check out Serious Eats, especially the section titled, Food Lab.
Anyway, back to black (sesame seeds:) I’ve long been a fan of white sesame seeds in a variety of forms:
- halvah, a Middle Eastern candy made of crushed white sesame seeds,
- tahini, a paste (used in hummus and many other dips and sauces) made of toasted white sesame seeds ,
- sesame oil, a common Asian ingredient, and
- sprinkled on Asian or Middle Eastern dishes, such as my stir-fried asparagus with sesame and ginger.
But until last week, I had never cooked with black sesame seeds.
I dry toasted them as I did for quinoa and the aroma was simply magnificent. Heavenly. Rich. Like a Middle Eastern marketplace in your own kitchen. The toasted seeds remain fragrant even days later, but if you want the ultimate sensory experience, I’d advise toasting them just before, or at least within an hour or two, of serving the watermelon. The aroma is in the same ballpark as that from toasted white sesame seeds, but nuttier, richer, and more fragrant.
Although they are not as common as white, black sesame seeds are typically sold in U.S. groceries that carry bulk spices or have a decent selection of Asian or Middle Eastern ingredients.
Simple and Elegant Watermelon Dessert
Servings – 4
- 3-4 cups cubed watermelon
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- Put the black sesame seeds in the pan and dry toast them for about 10-15 minutes under medium heat , stirring or shaking frequently, until they begin to pop (like quinoa) and give off a nutty aroma. Continue toasting them for a few more minutes, taking care that they do not burn. Remove the pan from the heat to let the seeds cool.
- Dry the watermelon cubes with the paper towel just enough that their outside is not watery. Put the cubes in individual serving bowls or dessert dishes and sprinkle them with the toasted black sesame seeds.
- Serve immediately. (If you want to serve this dish later, refrigerate the watermelon cubes, drying them off and adding the toasted black sesame seeds just before serving.)