Dear Lisa: I love hummus and would like to start making it myself. But is there anything I can substitute for tahini? My recipe calls for only 1 1/2 tablespoons of tahini, and I don't want to buy the large jar at the store that is so expensive when I only need such a small amount. -- Thank you, James

Dear James: Tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, is a fundamental ingredient in hummus. There is not anything you can substitute for it. But it is possible to make a small amount for your homemade hummus, although it is akin to making peanut butter at home starting with raw peanuts.

Commercial tahini is made with hulled sesame seeds. Maybe that's why it's so expensive -- imagine peeling all those little seeds -- open sesame! Seriously, though, you can process un-hulled sesame seeds in a food processor and make a quite acceptable tahini for your recipe. It will have a slight texture because of the ground hulls. Here's how:

First, make sure your sesame seeds are fresh. They can become rancid rather quickly.

Start with about 1 cup of sesame seeds. Toast them lightly (keep an eye on them, as they will burn easily) and let cool. Process the seeds in a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until smooth. Continue to add oil until the tahini is of the consistency you desire. Store in the refrigerator.

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