Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Purslane and zucchini salad (Γλιστρίδα)

My uncles never buy vegetables, eating only what they grow themselves. When it's not in season in their garden, they simply do without unless they have frozen it from last season's harvests. They have salads with every meal, which are always picked fresh within the hour that they make them. Their crockery is broken, the handles of their knives are sometimes held together with wire, and they never lay a tablecloth, but their salads always taste so good because they are fresh and organic, with only olive oil to add another taste dimension to them.

Purslane (called glistrida - γλιστρίδα - in Greek) features a lot in my uncles' salads as soon as they get the summer garden going in spring. Glistrida grows unaided as soon as we start irrigating the spring-planted summer garden, usually all around the planted crops. Together with vlita, purslane forms our first free food of the season. Onion forms a staple in all their salads, and they add whatever is available in the garden: one time I saw them add slices of fresh artichokes, another time they added lettuce. In the summer, it's always tomato.

Now that the zucchini has taken off, I've been adding it fresh and raw to many Greek dishes which traditionally take cucumber. It's not a "Greek thing" to add raw zucchini to dishes - my uncles would never eat zucchini raw. They would think I was mad if I were to tell them that I have used grated zucchini in tzatziki instead of the normal cucumber. But ever since I learnt a nice technique to "cook" zucchini without heat, I find that raw zucchini is tastier than cucumber; besides, we are better at growing zucchini than we are at growing cucumber...

You need:
a small fresh zucchini (maximum diameter 3cm)
some fresh purslane (it wilts easily once cut)
an onion
some olives
some feta cheese
lemon juice
olive oil

Wash the zucchini and use a mandolin slicer to cut it into thin slices. Place the zucchini in the juice of the lemon. Set aside and allow to marinate for at least a quarter of an hour. Use only the leaves of the purslane (the stems can be used, but the leaves are much tastier) - this is a tedious process but it is worth your while! Slice the onion into thin rings. Drain the lemon juice out of the zucchini. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, crumbling the feta and drizzling the olive oil and salt over them.

All this salad needs is crusty bread and a glass of wine - and a shady balcony to enjoy it on.

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