I was looking through the photos of my vacation to Greece last year, reminiscing the wonderful time I had, the new friends I made, the new places I visited and the new flavours that danced on my tongue. I also reconnected with old friends, relatives and walked over the same paths I’ve known for the 21 visits I’ve made to Greece. I’ve walked down this beach where my family swims countless times, passing rocks, counted an array of rocks, shells and I’ve stepped on the odd sea urchin (Ouch!) washed-up on shore.
Last year while in Greece I also was hooked-up to the internet and fellow blogger Maria from Chania, Crete was sharing/discussing a plant that grows along rocky seashores. I’ve walked past this plant many times without knowing that it in fact was edible and enjoyed by those in the know. We’re talking about Samphire and a little later on we’re going to make a potato salad with it.
Samphire in Greek is known as “kritamo” and it grows annually and it’s best picked when young and tender, around mid-Spring. Often also called the poor-man’s asparagus, the slender stems are picked and often pickled, blanched or tossed raw into salads. Samphire has leaves that look similar to purslane but slider wider and elongated. When samphire is found with a bloom that looks similar to a mature dill plant, the plant has matured and often has a strong flavour that can be tamed by blanching the thinner stems or again, pickling them.
This succulent has some bitterness to it but I would say it’s milder than rapini (broccoli rabe) and tastes like a combo of asparagus and capers. If you like bitter greens, you’ll like samphire. olive oil, lemon juice, scallions (or chives) would complement it well and garlic is always a good foil to the noted bitterness. Samphire is also slightly briny so easy on the sea salt!
Samphire’s compatibility with lemon and olive oil also makes it ideal for serving it with fish or seafood. Greeks love a good potato salad with fish or seafood and that’s how I’m working in samphire today…with potatoes. When I make a potato salad I like the potatoes to still be warm and absorb whatever flavours I’m adding to the salad. Only the best olive oil need be used here and you know what that is don’t you? We’re talking Greek extra-virgin olive oil.
I recently samples some Euphoria extra-virgin olive oil, from a family-run (Konstantopoulos) plot in Messinia (southern Greece). This early harvest olive oil is low in acidity, unfiltered and make from 100% Koroneiki olives. The olive oil comes from the family’s very own grove of olive trees, no blends with other olive oils and with the family’s 10 generations of producing olive oil, they know what they are doing. The bright emerald-green catches your eye and the smooth taste of Euphoria ends with a peppery finish.
The spuds are boiled until just fork tender then add scallions or chives, minced garlic, a squirt of mustard, chopped parsley and extra-virgin Greek olive oil. Squeeze some lemon juice to taste, pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper and you’ve got a new dish to serve to your family and friends. Beach-to-table cuisine anyone?
Potato Salad With Samphire (Πατατοσαλατα με Κρίταμο)
6 medium-sized potatoes, well-scrubbed and rinsed (I’m keeping the skins on these potatoes)
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup of tender samphire stems (with leaves) or thinly shaved asparagus spears
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
coarse sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
- Place a large pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. Season well with salt and place your potatoes in the water, bring back to a boil and simmer for 2o minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. During the last 5-6 minutes of cooking the potatoes, add the samphire in with the boiling potatoes and simmer until just tender and mellowed in flavour.
- Remove the samphire with a slotted spoon and place under running cold water and strain, set aside. Now strain the potatoes and place in a pot with cold water and allow to cool until you just able to handle the potatoes (should still be warm). Slice the potatoes into 1/2 inch slices and place in a bowl with the mustard, olive oil, scallions, garlic and samphire and toss until well incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning with coarse sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste again, add more lemon juice if needed and toss in the chopped fresh parsley.
- Plate and serve warm with some fresh ground pepper on top.
NOTES: The scientific name for Samphire is Crithmum maritimum L. and it belongs to the Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) family. The seeds of the plant resemble barley and the ancient Greeks called samphire “krithamon”. Samphire can be found on rocky shores of European Atlantic and Mediterranean and reproduction of samphire is through cuttings. Samphire is best when harvesting it in mid-Spring, before it flowers but you may blanche or boil it if you find some later in the year. Always consult some locals before picking and sampling any greens you’re not sure of.
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