Sesame And Lemon Sauce For Middle Eastern Treats

In the summer heat, the tangy impact of freshly squeezed lemon juice combined with the subtle bitterness of tahini adds a highlight to otherwise heavy foods. The effect is arrestingly good, cutting through the heaviness of the dish and perking up satiated taste buds. No wonder this lemon-sesame condiment is so popular throughout the Middle East.

The sauce serves as a dip or is poured over snacks like falafel (chick-pea and lentil cakes) and fried cauliflower or meatballs. It is even used as a sauce for fried fish. Easy to make, it highlights the dishes it accompanies and adds protein to vegetable dishes.

Rather than the Lebanese favorite of deep-fried cauliflower, try roasting olive oil-dipped and lightly salted cauliflower pieces on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees until just tender. Serve hot with tahini-lemon sauce as an appetizer -- or meze -- course.

Sesame (Tahini) and Lemon Sauce

3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste, available at Middle Eastern and health food stores)
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic (optional), thoroughly mashed in the salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Minced parsley for garnish, optional

In a small bowl mash tahini with a spoon or fork until softened. Add water and whisk it in. Whisk in lemon juice plus the mashed garlic, if used, salt and pepper.

Allow mixture to sit several minutes. Taste and, if necessary, add a little salt to make sauce slightly salty.

If serving sauce in a dish for dipping or spooning onto the foods, dust with some minced parsley.