Purslane Gazpachos: Slow, baby, slow.
In the winter, it’s easy to sink into slower rhythms. The brisk cold encourages us to curl up inside next to the fire with a good book. The feeling of the season promotes introversion and reflection. Winter is cozy, so slow is normal. But it can be much harder to go slow in summer. This time of year is a flurry of activity, with multiple events competing for our attention on any given day. It’s a time of new adventures and travel and foraging and wandering… but in the midst of all of that business, sometimes we still need to go slow. It’s always a balance.
Summer’s slowness is beautiful in its own right. It’s sitting in the breezy shade of a porch to listen to birds or laying on a riverbank with sand under your toes or even waking up early with the sun and sitting alone in the morning coolness with a cup of tea. And as beautiful as those moments are, I think we sometimes miss them because we’re so busy in our pursuit of, well, busy-ness.
So ask yourself: what level of energy do you feel like these days? Are you happy with the wild pace of your life? Do you want more adventure? Or are you wishing for the ability to slow down and sip it all in from the back porch without a commitment in sight? Sometimes just taking a moment to check in and ask ourselves those questions can provide important clarity for how we shape our lives. And yes, not everyone has the luxury of just taking the day off or taking it slow… but nearly everyone has some options to simplify. One great option I’ve found is gazpacho.
This chilled vegetable soup is a classic summertime favorite - all you have to do is chuck some fresh vegetables and herbs in a blender, then let the resulting puree chill in the fridge for a while. It makes the perfect light meal for summer days when the heat makes other food feel too heavy. Add some crusty bread with cheese on top (or, better yet, dragon bread) for a full meal and you’re good to go! (Or good to rest.)
Another way I like to embrace slowness in summertime is by picking a small area and really looking at all of the details. Just half a block of a city sidewalk can be surprisingly awash with life, from big fluffy bumblebees buzzing amongst the lavender to a busy line of ants marching dutifully across the sidewalk to energetic squirrel antics in the branches above. Again, I think in our pursuit to “get somewhere” we often miss the intricate beautiful details beneath our feet. And one plant that I’ve been noticing a lot lately is purslane.
You may not be familiar with the name, but I bet you’d recognize the plant. Purslane grows on every continent except Antarctica. It has succulent leaves that branch outwards over vacant lots and city sidewalks. Wherever people go, purslane does too. In the eyes of many, this plant is a weed to be removed from garden beds and hidden from view. I would beg to offer a new perspective: purslane is a delicious and very nutritious edible that gives our bodies so much of what we need this time of year! It comes up during the hottest part of the summer, often when other fresh greens have died back or wilted in the heat. It thrives on very little water and can often be found growing in hard, compacted soil. (Check your driveway. Seriously.) When harvested early in the day, it has a tart, lemon-like flavor with the refreshing crunch of cucumber. Later in the day that lemon-y tartness fades a bit, leaving a still-delicious crunchy bite that tastes a bit like green beans, with a little hint of saltiness. I love nibbling from the patch that grows in my yard for its crisp texture and bright flavor. You can eat purslane raw or cooked, though I usually prefer raw. When cooked, it has a mucilaginous aspect (like okra) that can help to thicken soups or stews. That same mucilage can be very soothing to mucous membranes throughout the body, including the digestive system. If the heat of summer dries you out, purslane can help your body feel fresh again.
Purslane is more than just soothing, though; it’s also incredibly healthy. It has the highest-yet-measured levels of omega-3 fatty acids in a plant, for starters! It also has higher protein and iron concentrations than any cultivated vegetable, such as kale. (And speaking of, it has more vitamin A, vitamin E, and magnesium than kale as well.) It even beats bananas in potassium, making it a nutritional winner in many aspects indeed. Isn’t that the kind of goodness you’d love blended up into an easy and delicious soup?
You can also elevate this super-simple meal into a stunning dish to serve to guests by making your own flower-filled ice bowls (directions below.) They also take just moments to assemble, but need to freeze overnight so plan ahead.
Make a little room in your life for more slowness or more adventure by whipping up this easy meal of purslane gazpacho. It’ll take you just minutes to make the soup, then a couple of hours chilling with make it delightfully fresh and soothing. Gee, what to do with all the time you’ve saved? An afternoon nap? An evening walk? A vigorous hike? It’s up to you to decide.
A note: when identifying purslane, please be sure to look up “hairy-stemmed spurge” first as it is a look-alike and is poisonous. Always make sure your identification is 100% correct before eating any wild foods!
Green Purslane Gazpacho:
If you like guacamole, you’ll love this soup. Plenty of cilantro and avocado give it a great flavor, while the purslane and cucumber make it extra refreshing. Serve with a drizzle of yogurt and/or olive oil for a gorgeous presentation.
2 cucumberrs, de-seeded and chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 c. cilantro
1 c. purslane leaves
2 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. water
olive oil and yogurt, for garnish
1. Toss everything but the garnish into a blender and blend until smooth. Chill for a couple of hours and serve cold with garnishes and some fresh purslane leaves for crunch.
Red Purslane Gazpacho:
Nothing gives flavor to dishes quite like fresh summer tomatoes. This soup is decidedly Italian-influenced with its addition of fresh basil. Again, serve it with a bit of yogurt and/or olive oil and enjoy!
3 medium tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 c. purslane leaves
1/2 c. basil leaves
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. water
a little yogurt and/or olive oil, to top
1. Toss everything but the toppers in a blender and blend until smooth. Chill for a couple of hours and serve cold with garnishes.
How to make Flower Ice Bowls:
plastic bowls that nest in each other
fresh edible flowers and herbs
- Arrange your flowers and herbs in one of the plastic bowls, pushing them gently against the edge. Place a second bowl in the first and fill the space between them with distilled water. (Should be about 1/3” thick.) Fill the top bowl with water as needed to hold it down.
- Carefully transfer the stacked bowls to the freezer and freeze overnight.
- To remove, let the bowls sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes to thaw the outside, then gently remove them from the molds. Rubbing the outsides with the palm of your hand will help clarify the ice. Then just scoop a little of the chilled soup into each bowl, garnish with a bit of yogurt and/or olive oil, and serve immediately. (Be sure to serve the bowls on plates to catch any melted water!)
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