My small backyard has fences cordoning off the south and west sides. But the third side is open, separated from the neighbor's house only by our shared driveway. Although his off-leash time was initially highly supervised, these days my dog is generally allowed to backyard trips on his own recognizance. He's a fairly quiet older dog, and unless the next-door barbecue is in use, or a cat wanders by, he'll just do his business, then nose his way back inside. And in the summer, he'll sprawl out on the porch, yard or driveway (depending upon the sun's angle), tanning until he needs to come inside, panting, and collapse on the cool floor in a dramatic clatter of elbows. For the most part, this works out fine. Except in cherry season.
The yard next door features a dramatically large cherry tree, and in the summer it's absolutely dripping. They are the favorite of loud-yelling crows, and the occasional raccoon. And, it turns out, my dog.
And I understand. Cherries are delicious. Although the next-door tree is a bit too high up for regular harvest (given that I don't share the same fresh-from-the-ground tastes as my dog), I've been picking up helping after helping at the stores and farmers' markets. Huge yellow-red Raniers, and Bings that stain everything (myself included) with rich wine-dark juice. For the most part, I'm happy to just eat them out of hand. But recently I discovered they're delicious in salad.
I happened upon this particular combination when I was looking for something to do with purslane. This succulent green is not that common, but I've seen it show up the last several summers and highly recommend it — in addition to being a healthy omega-packed powerhouse, it's got a refreshing lemony taste and water-filled pop. I've turned it into a sort of Greek salad before, but our tomatoes were still a few weeks away. And it was too hot to try the cooked Mexican and Mediterranean preparations I've bookmarked. So instead, I tried a salad.
The recipe originally comes from The New York Times, inspired by the author's Greek vacation. I omitted the olives to keep things simple (and, um, because I didn't have any), and instead just tossed the punchy purslane with briny, creamy feta, and these drippy-sweet cherries. I dressed everything with a light touch of olive oil and lemon, and sprinkled on a bit of sumac I happened to find for another touch of sour (and color). The combination is simple, summery, well-balanced and perfect. Just ask my dog.
Purslane Salad with Cherries and Feta
adapted, heavily from The New York Times
serves ~4 as a small first course
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, thwacked with a knifedollop of honey
salt and pepper to taste
1 generous bunch purslane, thick stems cut away (about 4 cups)
a few leaves fresh mint, roughly torn (I was too hot/lazy to walk out and harvest/steal these, but I think they'd make a lovely addition)
a few handfuls cherries, pitted and halved1 to 2 ounces feta, crumbled
a few pinches sumac (optional)
Place all of the dressing ingredients together in a jar with a leak-proof lid, and shake-shake-shake to emulsify. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.
Tumble together the purslane and mint on a serving platter or individual plates. Scatter the cherries and feta on top, and scatter on a few pinches sumac (if desired). Give the dressing another shake, and lightly dress the salad. Serve.