Come summer, I find a box full of organic produce on my desk every Monday morning. Big, bright red tomatoes that do smell and taste like tomatoes, tiny crunchy seedless cucumbers, crisp & sweet green peppers and a bunch of tender purslane. And how can I forget the dark purple eggplants that will perfume my kitchen all week long while they bake in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon?
The delivery guy behind this marvelous produce is my father.
Every year from June to September, my parents spend their weekends at our summerhouse, just an hour’s drive from Istanbul. Our house is by the sea, so we never had a pool and that meant a garden for my father to spend every minute of his waking hours. The garden wasn’t this bountiful during my childhood. We always had tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, but that was nearly it. Me and my brother used to throw the stones of the fruits we ate after dinner at the garden downstairs. Now those stones turned into cherry, apricot and peach trees. There is also a lemon tree by the entrance, which produces 3-4 lemons per year! It isn’t plenty, but we devour them.
Purslane is my favorite produce this summer. The first time my father brought a small bunch, I was ecstatic. I had never seen purslane leaves this tiny and crisp. All I wanted to do was rush home and make my most favorite summer salad.
Purslane Salad with a yogurt, garlic and ginger dressing.
My other favorite summer salad, called Shepherd’s Salad, is very straightforward. It is basically a mixture of diced tomatoes, peppers, red onions and cucumbers dressed with one part olive oil and one part red wine vinegar (or lemon juice).
If you add half a bunch of flat leaf parsley, a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses and some sumac, then you have another traditional salad called Gavurdagi.
PURSLANE SALAD WITH A YOGURT, GARLIC AND GINGER DRESSING
- A bunch of purslane (about 3 cups, loosely packed)
- 1 cup yogurt
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 tbsp hot red pepper flakes
Wash purslane (discard coarse stems, if any) and drain well. Place yogurt, garlic, ginger, olive oil and salt in a bowl and blend with a hand-held immersion blender until the texture resembles buttermilk (the yogurt will liquidize after a while). Toss with the roughly chopped purslane. I always sprinkle a generous amount of hot red pepper flakes on top for an extra kick.
TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD
- 1 large tomato
- 4 tiny seedless cucumbers
- 10-20 tiny sweet green peppers (or one large green bell pepper)
- 1 medium red onion
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Feta cheese and Nigella seeds, for decorating
Cut the tomato, cucumbers, red onion and green peppers into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with olive oil & vinegar. Mix in chopped flat leaf parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a square piece of feta cheese and sprinkle Nigella seeds on top.