Summer Tsigarista

Back when it was much much cooler than it is now, a whole host of wild greens were available both in my garden and at the stalls of the laiki (outdoor market) here in Athens. In early March of this year I posted a recipe for Tsigarista, sautéed wild greens – something we couldn’t get enough of at the time, and then suddenly it was gone. Wild greens disappeared from the laiki and even the nettles dried up into brown brittle sticks in the garden. Now, in this hot summer sun, that tsigarista almost seems like a dream.

However, not all is lost. There is a summer version of tsigarista, made with cultivated warm weather greens – vlita (βλήτα) and glystrida (γλυστρίδα), leaf amaranth and purslane respectively in English. These are common in the laiki here in Greece, but they are not mainstream vegetables in the UK.

vlita_laiki
glystrida

They are well worth seeking in Mediterranean or Eastern specialty food shops. Amaranth leaf is called bayam in Malaysia and is also a common vegetable in Indonesia, China and even in parts of Africa. Purslane, a relative of the portulaca flower grown in gardens, is a common (though old-fashioned) vegetable in parts of Europe and is popular further east in India, and possibly elsewhere as the plant has a wide natural distribution in the Old World, extending to Australasia. It now grows world-wide. You might consider growing your own, or substituting them for more common greens. Amaranth leaf is slightly bitter and purslane is a slightly sour tasting succulent. Both are packed with nutrients.

souvlaki_in_laiki

This summer version of tsigarista is fantastic on its own. However, for those of you who are meat eaters, it pairs beautifully with that other staple of the laiki – souvlaki. One stop shopping for a summer meal.

summer_tsigarista

Vlita Tsigarista

  • 1 onion
  • Olive oil
  • 1kg vlita (leaf amaranth)
  • 500g glystrida (purslane)
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 small bunch mint
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • Feta

Clean the vlita and glystrida – remove & discard the larger stems. Chop the leaves coarsely. Clean and pick leaves from the mint. Chop the mint finely. Set all the greens aside – keeping them separate.

Finely chop the onion and sauté on medium heat in the oil in a large heavy bottom pot. Add the glystrida, stir. Add the mint when the glystrida begins to soften. Lastly, add the vlita. Adjust with salt and pepper.

Skin and chop the tomatoes. When the vlita wilts (about 5 minutes) and there is no liquid in the pot, add the tomatoes. Stir, but do not let it cook too long. Juice the lemon and add. The tomatoes should not completely disintegrate, but retain some of their shape. Add the crumbled feta, mix, turn off the heat and turn out on to a serving platter.

Serve as a warm salad and optionally with grilled fish (or souvlaki).

summer_tsigarista_souvlaki

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12 comments

  1. That looks delicious! One thing that I found interesting in both Greece & Turkey was when you ate in places were more tourist based every thing was served with rice and potatoes. It drove me nuts! I wanted the real deal and this looks much more like it. Thanks, Maree.

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    • I know what you mean by “tourist” food. I wish they wouldn’t second guess what people will want to eat, overloading the potatoes and rice – sometimes both at the same time. “Real” food is so much more varied. This tsigarista was brilliant – all veggies – and the souvlaki was great, too!

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  2. Wild greens are wonderful. For years I ignored the purslane that grew like a weed in my garden, now I have no such gifts. I have a cookbook written by Greco- Aussie Janni Kyritsis called Wild Weed Pie, he extols the vitues z

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    • I love purslane and was first introduced to it here in Greece many years ago. For the most part, Greeks tend to eat it raw in salads, but I am now exploring ways of cooking with it (which – from what I can gather – is more common in Turkey). Another post on purslane is coming up in a week or so. That wild green pie sounds interesting.

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  3. Greens are a major component of the Mediterranean diet. As a boy, they were a regular dish on the table, although purslane and amaranth weren’t among them. I’ve seen these two at the farmers market but never knew what to do with them. I’m pretty sure I’d like them both, especially if served as you’ve done here. It sounds delicious, Debi.

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    • I’m not surprised to here you have purslane and amaranth in your farmers markets. I suspect they are scooped up by members of Chicago’s large Greek community. Give these greens a go and add an Italian twist! Remember that purslane should be eaten raw or cooked well -it does not do well with a light sauté.

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