We turned an interesting corner with my son’s food allergies this week. Last November, after uneventfully eating hummus (with sesame paste, aka tahini) for several months, he had a strange hivey reaction to a tahini-based salad dressing. I was fairly certain it wasn’t a cross-contamination issue (i.e. peanuts on the tahini-making equipment or something) because I had been careful to buy tahini that was labelled as “made in a facility that only handles sesame seeds”. I figured we likely had another food allergy to add to the list, and knowing how common sesame allergies were, I guess I wasn’t surprised.
The allergist, however, was surprised, mostly because dude had previously tolerated hummus without a trace of any reaction or issue. So instead of “scratch-testing” him to confirm an allergy (which apparently has a high rate of false positives) she encouraged me to reintroduce the hummus and cross my toes.
Of course by that time I had all but outlawed sesame seeds from my house (discovering in the process that sesame is in just about EVERYTHING) and I have been terrified at the prospect of trying it again.
Until this week, that is, when my hands—without permission from my brain—grabbed a container of hummus from the grocery store, paid for it, carried it home, spread it on a (wheat-free) pancake, fed it to my son, and watched, hands wringing.
And nothing. NOTHING. Not even a red spot.
Convinced it was just a fluke, I tried it the next day again, this time with a thicker layer of hummus (same pancake). And? NOTHING.
Is there a polite way to say WHAT. THE. F.?
As if food allergies were not vexing enough, it appears that my food-allergic kid is possibly allergic to some subset of sesame seeds. A “species” of sesame seed, maybe? He’s not allergic to the sesame paste hiding in the store-bought hummus, but he is allergic to the tahini quarantined in a Ziploc bag down in my basement fridge. Does this even make sense? While it sounds pretty far-fetched, if there is one thing I have learned about food allergies in the past six months: they just don’t make sense. Never ever.
One positive byproduct of cooking without sesame for four months is that I’ve discovered some delicious non-seed containing alternatives to hummus. And I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this Creamy White Bean & Caramelized Onion Dip is better than any hummus you will ever make or buy. Even if we are able to finally rule out a sesame allergy, this dip will continue to be my go-to veg and cracker accompaniment. It’s also a great lunchbox dip for kids who have sesame-restricted classrooms. (Don’t laugh! Some do!)
The dip is delightfully creamy (so creamy that dippers will suspect it contains dairy; it doesn’t), naturally sweet from the caramelized onions, and super flavourful thanks to the trio of citrus, garlic and dried herbes de provence (which you should be able to find in the spices section of most grocery stores).
The key to the creamy texture is to let the dip churn in the food processor for a solid three or four minutes. The longer you process it the more velvety and creamy it becomes. Just be sure to stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl every minute or so to fully incorporate all the lovely bits.
This dip will keep for several days in the fridge, but is best served at room temperature or slightly warm. If you are serving it out of the fridge, pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds or so, just to take the chill off, then drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and serve.
Oh, and if anyone has any insight into our sesame allergy mystery, please share in the comments below!
- 2 medium onions (about ½ a pound), thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons + ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 14 oz / 398 ml can cannellini / white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 small garlic clove
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Start by caramelizing the onions. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions, stir to coat them with the oil, and then turn the heat down to low and let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn a deep brown colour. This will take about 20-30 minutes. If the onions start to dry out, stir in a couple tablespoons of water.
- Combine the caramelized onions, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, white beans, garlic clove, lemon juice, herbes de Provence and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Whiz it all up for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides every minute or so, until the dip is very creamy and velvety. Taste for seasoning, then stir in additional salt if required.
- Serve room temperature or slightly warm with crackers, chips or vegetable sticks.