Horta means greens, often wild greens, gathered that day if you’re in the country, maybe cultivated ones in the city. Innumerable types of greens are used for horta, many which I don’t recognize. They vary, depending on where you are, and I think in Crete alone they’ve counted over two hundred kinds. Of course they change with the season as well. In Skopelos and around the Magnesian peninsula, where I have spent a lot of time, there is always some excitement when the tsatsarifa (that’s a phonetic attempt), a local green, comes wild in the spring.
Horta of some kind is on the table almost daily, spring though fall, just as a green salad could be part of someone’s dinner every night here. When I’m away from Greece and want horta, I buy a bunch of spinach, a bunch of arugula, and maybe some turnip greens—it makes a reasonable facsimile. Any favorite green can be incorporated. Dandelion greens are common in Greece, and here I often use frisee lettuce or endive when it’s available.
All you need for horta is greens, olive oil, and salt. A pound of greens will serve two or three people. Wash your greens before you begin.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch whatever greens you are using.
Some, like spinach or arugula for example, will blanch almost immediately; others will take quite a bit longer. Again, taste and pull them when they’re tender. If you’re doing some quick-cooking greens and some longer-cooking ones, you can cook them in separate batches, or if you’re brave, just add the quick-cooking ones when the longer-cooking ones are almost done.
- Drain the blanched greens, squeeze out excess water with your hands, chop them if the pieces are large, and then toss them in good olive oil and salt.
Horta is delicious served with feta, and sometimes green vegetables are tossed along with it, like the cooked zucchini also included in this section.
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