Blueberries bring out sweet side of tahini

The sesame paste known as tahini is becoming better known to American cooks, largely because of hummus, but also thanks to the nutty richness it lends to falafel, grilled meats and roasted vegetables.

Cooks in the Middle East, however, know its savory, slightly bitter flavor works just as well in desserts. A prime example is halva, a fudge-like confection that is mostly sweetened tahini with spices, nuts and dried fruit.

So at Milk Street, we knew tahini could update an American classic — the blueberry crumble. In this recipe from our book “COOKish,” which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor, tahini boosts the flavor of a buttery oat mixture that bakes on top of juicy blueberries. The savory nuttiness of the tahini perfectly balances the sweet berries, which we also sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon.

Be sure to use quick-cooking oats; old-fashioned oats won’t soften quite enough. Ripe fresh berries are best but frozen work, too. Look for frozen “wild” blueberries — they’re tiny, but pack big flavor. If frozen regular berries are a must, add a few minutes to the baking time, but don’t thaw them before use.

This crumble is especially delicious warm, with a scoop of ice cream melting on top.


Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

  • 2 pints fresh blueberries OR 4 cups frozen blueberries, preferably wild (see note)
  • 2 cups (160 grams) quick-cooking oats, divided
  • ¾ cup (164 grams) packed brown sugar, divided
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (64 grams) tahini
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup (20 grams) of the oats and ¼ cup (54 grams) of the sugar; transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Wipe out the bowl, then add the remaining 1¾ cups (140 grams) oats, the remaining ½ cup (107 grams) sugar, the butter, tahini, cinnamon and salt. Mix until evenly moistened, then use your hands to squeeze the mixture into rough olive-size clumps and scatter them over the berries. Bake until the edges are bubbling and the crumble is golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Optional garnish: Toasted sesame seeds