In the heat of summer, purslane grows like the weed many consider it to be—a succulent, creeping plant with fleshy leaves that’s off the charts in omega-3 fatty acids, not to mention vitamins A and C. Mahatma Gandhi was a fan, as was that old frugal gourmet Henry David Thoreau, who likely foraged it at Walden Pond. In the Middle East, purslane plays a starring role in fattoush, a Levantine panzanella of sorts that functions both as a showcase for peak-season tomatoes and an ingenious disposal method for stale pita bread. This recipe, adapted from the Armenian-Lebanese restaurant Almayass, honors fattoush tradition with the vibrant flavors of fresh lemon, mint, and the tart, citrusy spice sumac.
Juice of two lemons
Sea salt to taste
1/2 tsp. sumac
5 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 pita bread
1 bunch purslane
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh mint
2 small red radishes, thinly sliced
3 small Persian cucumbers, peeled, halved, and cut into half-moons
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
In a bowl, make the dressing by combining the lemon juice with a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of sumac, and whisking in 4 tablespoons of olive oil; set aside. Cut the pita into 1-inch squares. In a pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat, add the pita, and toast until golden brown on both sides; remove the pita from the pan, and reserve. (1) Remove thick stems from the purslane, and place the leaves in a large salad bowl. Combine with the remaining ingredients. (2) Spoon on the dressing, and (3) toss the salad with the toasted pita. Season with sea salt and remaining sumac. Serves 4 to 6.
*This article originally appeared in the August 12, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.