Roasted Chicken Thighs with Tahini Sauce

My family had a trip to Boston planned for the MLK holiday but a snowstorm kept us home. So,  instead of viewing the artwork at the Gardner museum and dining on pasta at the North End, we took walks with the snow blowing into our faces, shoveled and cleared, made popcorn, watched Downton Abbey and played Monopoly (I won!)  by the fire. It was a cozy and warm day despite the below freezing temperatures.

The quiet day gave me time to consider a question that’s been simmering inside―what keeps us apart from the people we love the most? Not physically, but philosophically and emotionally. What keeps us apart? As someone who spends a huge amount of energy bringing people together—whether it be for a meal, or through my web design work, or here on Gathering Flavors—at my core, I’m very protective of my internal world. When certain things happen to pierce through that wall—a call from a friend to let me know she’s been recently diagnosed with a rare  illness, or an email from another to tell me he’s lost two close family members in rapid succession―I am suddenly more present and more connected to them in profound and meaningful ways. Despite the bad news and the sadness, I feel more  satisfied in my love for each of them.

So, why do I set myself apart so much? What makes it easier day-to-day to stay so apart? Or, am I fooling myself? Perhaps it’s not easy at all and the energy I spend protecting myself could be better spent letting go more.

Recently we had friends to dinner whom we hadn’t seen since before the holiday season. We’d each done a bit of traveling while we were apart, and we talked about the importance of staying open to new experiences when going new places. Perhaps those new places are present every day of life’s journey.

This dish of Roasted Chicken with Tahini Sauce was the centerpiece of our dinner that night. Based on a recipe from Zahav, an Israeli cookbook, the tastes and textures of the dish took us to the warmth of the Middle East. Marinated in a bit of hot pepper sauce, the chicken becomes crispy while roasting in the oven at a very high temperature. Served with a creamy tahini sauce, this dish does indeed open us up to life’s journeys.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.


Roasted Chicken Thighs with Tahini Sauce

Yield: 4 Servings


For the chicken—

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Sea salt

For the sauce—

  • 8 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup prepared tahini
  • ½ cup lemon juice (or more, as needed)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried cumin seed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For garnish—

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Handful greens, pea shoots or fresh parsley


To prepare the chicken—

  1. Put the chicken thighs in a baking pan large enough to hold them. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with harissa, oregano and sea salt. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Roast in oven until the skin is golden and the meat cooked through, about 45 minutes.

To prepare the tahini sauce—

  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. (Prepared tahini paste varies in thickness depending on the manufacturer. Add enough lemon juice to bring the paste to the consistency you like.)
  2. Pour into a bowl and cover until ready to use.

To serve—

  1. Divide the chicken pieces between 4 dinner plates.  Add the tahini sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and fresh greens.
  2. Enjoy.


  1. Harissa is a chili pepper paste.
  2. You can use any chicken parts you prefer for this recipe or even a whole roasted chicken that is then cut into serving pieces. Roasting time will vary depending on the pieces you choose and their size.
  3. This a is a bit more tahini sauce than you will need for serving. Cover and refrigerate any remaining sauce but bring it back to room temperature before serving. It is extremely versatile, so consider using it on other cooked meats, roasted potatoes or as a salad dressing.
  4. For a full main course, serve the chicken with Roasted Beet Relish, Carrots Stewed with Rice and Spice and Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk and Pomegranates.
  5. This recipe was closely adapted from Zahav—A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.