When I was in college, I ordered lunch from Sam’s Cafe on the Strip in Carbondale, Ill., about once a week. Sam’s had three advantages: They delivered, they took checks, and they had terrific vegetarian options. One of my favorite items on the menu was tahini salad. Before I graduated, I figured out how to make my own; it’s been one of my go-to dishes for parties and potlucks ever since. It’s also a great way to use up excess cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden as the summer progresses.
Tahini, as I’ve explained in earlier recipes, is a thick paste made from sesame seeds. Think peanut butter, but with a more assertive flavor. You can find it at the health-food store and most of your bigger grocery stores. Expect to pay $5 to $8 a jar. The recipe below serves one to two people, but it doubles or even triples easily if you’re feeding a crowd.
1/4 c. tahini
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. water
Black olives (optional)
Stir together tahini, lemon juice and water until smooth. Sprinkle with paprika to taste. Toss mixture with vegetables and serve.