Two Summer Salads

July 18th, 2008  | Category: Salad, Turkish Cuisine

organic produce

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.

Purslane Salad

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).

Shepherd's Salad

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.

Shepherd's Salad 2


Serves 2


  • 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.


Serves 2


  • 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.

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  1. 1 - Dolly on July 18th, 2008

    Are these black sesame seeds, or nigella seeds?

  2. 2 - Cenk on July 18th, 2008

    God you’re fast! I just edited the post and saw your comment! Yes, they are nigella seeds.

  3. 3 - Allen on July 18th, 2008

    I hadn’t heard of purslane before — it sounds wonderful, especially how you’ve prepared it.

  4. 4 - Karolina on July 18th, 2008

    I’m really into salads these days and these two just look delicious!!!

  5. 5 - Si Clare on July 18th, 2008

    Seeing as purslane is extremely hard to find out here, do you have any suggestions for alternatives? (Pea shoots? Watercress??)

  6. 6 - indosungod on July 18th, 2008

    You are lucky! The salad looks colorful and I bet tastes even better. As for the purslane I should find some but it won’t be half as fresh.I have plants that look like purslane growing in my yard but I am not sure.

  7. 7 - tangobaby on July 19th, 2008

    I’ve never had purslane. I wonder what it tastes like or where I can find it here? Your recipes sound wonderful and I will be sure to try them.

    The eggplant with olive oil and cinnamon sounded very exotic. I would never have thought of that seasoning for eggplant, but I will next time.

  8. 8 - David on July 19th, 2008

    Am not a big fan of purslane, but I guess slathered with good Turkish yogurt, I might be convinced.

    And, does your dad deliver to Paris?

  9. 9 - Tony on July 19th, 2008

    Those salads look delicious and refreshing, Cenk!

  10. 10 - ozge on July 21st, 2008

    Hi Cenk,
    I always add one or two shredded cucumbersr to purslane salad. This is the only way that I like this salad…the ingredients are same except fresh ginger.

  11. 11 - Emelll on July 21st, 2008

    I love the beautiful smell of organic tomatoes. I also like the purslane cooked with onion and rice. It’s a dense soup and great with a few drips of lemon juice..

  12. 12 - Marysol on July 21st, 2008

    How lucky for you to have your very own (fresh produce) delivery guy. Mouthwatering images.

    I’ve been craving summer vegetables, particularly tomatoes; can’t wait to hit my local farmer’s market.

  13. 13 - Mansi on July 21st, 2008

    Cenk, this is a wonderful use of the leaves, which are hard to savour otherwise, and I also loved your use of nigella seeds..looks great! I’d love if you could send this in for my healthy cooking blog event:)

  14. 14 - Kely on July 22nd, 2008

    Wow! The produce is gorgeous! It’s like having your own family CSA. Do you have the community supported agriculture programs in Turkey? Or do local farmers still dominate the marketplace?

  15. 15 - Cenk on July 22nd, 2008

    Thanks Kely! We only have a few in Turkey, but people started demanding them more in the recent years..

  16. 16 - Asli on July 22nd, 2008

    Hi Cenk,
    I’ve been waiting for this post in Turkish eagerly to comment but you’re still not posting it! Purslane is one my favorites as well, I especially like the wild ones with red stems. Both raw and cooked with minced meat, yummy indeed! BUT when I prepare purslane with yoghurt, I use 1/2 cup “süzme yoghurt” (this is why I waited for the post in Turkish, I don’t know what süzme yo?urt is in English)and 1/2 cup normal yoghurt. I also add olive oil on top of the salad (ya?? üstüne ?öyle bi gezdiriyorum) to taste it from time to time as I’m eating the salad. I actually adore süzme yoghurt and I prepare cacik (50-50% with plain yoghurt again), haydari, dips and salad sauces with this unique type of yoghurt. Also did you know that it is very good (?ifal?) to eat it because it is the rich probiotic bacterias that give the sour taste to that produce.

  17. 17 - bee on July 22nd, 2008

    pomegranate molasses plus sumac is a great idea. i love your purslane salad, esp the dressing. you are a lucky guy to get such beautiful poduce.

  18. 18 - itir on July 23rd, 2008

    Cenk, there was a discussion on Fethiye’s blog a while back on where to find purslane, how to grow it etc. I am copying the link here. Those interested in more info can take a look:

    BTW, I have been acting like a reference librarian for Cafe Fernando lately. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

  19. 19 - Sylvia on July 23rd, 2008

    I am trying to use only organic product. Last week end I found a small farm with a wonderful program , including non use agrotoxics and I bought wonderful vegetables and sweets strawberries.

  20. 20 - Cenk on July 23rd, 2008

    Asl? – Süzme yogurt can be translated as strained yogurt. Even though I like it a lot in cacik, I find it a bit too much for the purslane salad. Thanks for the suggestions!

    itir – Thanks for the link (and acting as a reference librarian – very much appreciated), I am sure it will be helpful for the readers who have a hard time locating purslane.

  21. 21 - Haley on July 23rd, 2008

    We’d like to invite you to participate in our July berry recipe contest. All competitors will be placed on our blogroll, and the winner will receive a fun prize! Please email me,, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details.

  22. 22 - Alexa on July 25th, 2008

    Gorgeous pictures. I’m transported by the vision you paint, the wonderful flavors you serve. I get all my produce from my local CSA farm and every week is a gift that keeps on giving. How perfect to get such a bounty from your own father. Have a great weekend.

  23. 23 - Sherxr on July 26th, 2008

    Not a fan of Feta Cheese.
    But it’s so great to have greens straight from one’s gardens!
    I’m busy growing my herbs from Singapore. Hope they survived!
    I think over in Istanbul, most of the stuff is organic and there’s no need to differentiation isn’t it?

  24. 24 - MariannaF on July 28th, 2008

    Woah, delicious salads! I’m a BIG salad fan during summers especially. Always get a big healthy salad with lots of greens and leave room for dessert…my typical kind of meal. And I love purslane too, too bad you cant find it here as easily as in the M.East… and Nigella seeds are always around in my kitchen, and it’s typical to match it up with Feta. Is that a Turkish habit too? It’s really interesting how similar our cuisines tend to be… 🙂 Just little details like Nigella seeds + feta!

  25. 25 - Cenk on July 28th, 2008

    Sherxr – Unfortunately, that is not the case. Large supermarkets sell tomatoes that taste like cardboard. I started seeing more organic produce recently, but it is nowhere near enough…

    MariannaF – Yes, it is a common combination. N. seeds are usually sprinkled on top of savory pastries (which are usually filled with feta cheese) before they go into the oven. My mother always serves this salad with a piece of feta cheese on top (contrary to authentic recipe, which has no cheese) and sprinkles Nigella seeds on top for color contrast.

  26. 26 - MariannaF on July 29th, 2008

    Yes we do that TOO! (the N.seeds, feta in savory pastries!) Another culinary point in common 🙂

  27. 27 - joey on July 30th, 2008

    Both salads look delicious! You are so lucky that your father drops a box of organic produce on your doorstep each week 🙂

  28. 28 - Kathleen on August 26th, 2008

    I found a nice bunch of purslane at my farmer’s market and made my own variation (with some tomato and red bell pepper). Yum! Thank you for the recipe.

  29. 29 - Organic on November 25th, 2008

    wow that would have to be the best looking greek salad i have ever seen!

  30. 30 - m on January 1st, 2009

    Purslane can be bought in san francisco at the civic center farmers market on wednesday and sundays, and also found, most of the time, in the Mission area neighbour hispanic markets. Purlsane is eaten in france and other parts of europe too.

  31. 31 - nilam on November 18th, 2009

    Purslane typically growns wild in semi-tropical and warmer temperate zones by the shore and in estuaries… that is the reason it tends to be salty… u may have heard caution notes on going easy with salt while dealing with purslane…. while it is true for greens in general, it is more true for purslane!!

  32. 32 - Ren on September 21st, 2010

    Next time I go to Tuscany (where I put my hands in the earth a lot!)I am going to look for this…and go to heaven!Love your blog. I recently was given some pomegranate molasses and my husband puts it in ice water and drinks it in summer!!

  33. 33 - monika on November 2nd, 2010

    our favorite restaurant is EFES and they make mean turkish food–including a wicked shepherd’s salad. the owners are a wild and crazy bunch of brothers from turkey and, while not a fancy eatery, we think it’s the best place in town for healthy and delicious food. they’ve been cooking for over ten years and now–and we keep going back. thanks for the great pics of the colorful veggies.

  34. 34 - niki on May 28th, 2011

    Great recipes..both of them!But the second one is exactly like a greek salad and cocerning you’re using feta and not white cheese I’ll take it as a greek one 🙂

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