We three sisters—Shelby, Jackie and I—have strong connections to Israel. Both Shelby and I spent a year there after graduating college, but Jackie wins. She made aliyah over five years ago and married an Israeli.

It’s amazing what spending time in Israel does. I personally have developed a strong appreciation for the people, the land and especially the cuisine.

Lots of things remind me of all that we miss out on by being in the Diaspora, living outside of Israel. Here, you can’t walk on the highway on Yom Kippur, greetings and goodbyes Thursday evenings through Friday afternoon don’t include Shabbat shalom and people don’t say chag sameach for almost a two week buffer pre- and post- a holiday.

The same goes for the diet. The delicious and healthy Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food served outside of Israel has for too long been limited to hummus, falafel and second-tier shawarma. There’s so much more to it, though!

In the initial stages of our new company, Soom Foods, when we explained to people that we were selling tehina, we mostly received blank stares, hard thinking and then, “Oh! Is that like tahini? I use tahini to make hummus sometimes!” When people in the US hear tahini, they think hummus, falafel, shawarma and a sauce with some lemon and garlic.

In Israel and the Middle East it’s called tehina, not tahini, and tehina is used in many, many different ways.

Let’s take a step back and consider sesame for a second.  You can find sesame seeds on bagels, hamburger buns, baked in and on cookies, sprinkled on salads, crusted on seared tuna, pressed into oil… the list goes on.  It spans  sweet to savory, liquid to solid, main ingredient to a simple topping.

Tehina is made from 100% sesame and is just as (if not more) diverse!

Soom Foods tehina is subtly both sweet and savory at the same time.  Put a “soom-ful” (or two!) on plain toast, yogurt, oatmeal or even your salad. Mix it up with a little bit of honey for a sweet spread or with lemon juice to turn it into a dip or dressing.

Tehina adds great texture and nutrients to guacamole and smoothies. Cook it on fish or on pan-seared, red-curry, chicken. Bake it into a delicious dessert like oatmeal-tehina-raisin cookies.

Spread a tablespoon on an English muffin or rice cracker with jelly or sliced bananas and honey, or doctor it up into a healthy substitute for mayonnaise. Add a “soom-ful” to your hot cereal in the morning or drizzle it over a chicken kabob for dinner.

So it turns out we’re not in the tahini business. Our business is tehina and the possibilities are endless.