I love purslane, but until a while ago I hadn’t really thought about cooking it. I knew it was done in some places, but there were a few reasons I didn’t ever entertain cooking it:
- I was harvesting purslane for a restauarant where I was the chef, and since I was picking it myself, I wanted to make sure it went as far as possible. Cooking the purslane down meant I would have to pick a lot.
- It’s use as a beautiful substitute for microgreens (I refuse to use them) can make a dish pop with green color, and again, stretches how far it can go.
If you know purslane, you might be familiar with one of it’s other commonly used names: verdolagas, which, as you might expect, is a Spanish word, and it’s used in both South American and European Spanish cooking. The recipe here is a South American version, as it include tomato and peppers: both ingredients from the New World.
I remembered seeing a couple videos somewhere of the greens being blanched and braised, or cooked from raw in South American Youtube channels (Youtube is a gold mine for indigenous recipes and techniques from around the world). One of the recipes I had to try was a simple braise with tomato and onion.
Just tomato and onion was ok, and I didn’t want to guild the lily, but I thought there was definitely a little room for some fat, poultry or goat would be perfect, and available in South America.
I made it a few times, and liked it, serving it to a few people here and there. One person remarked that the greens had a sharp flavor, and they do, a bit. It wasn’t that they didn’t enjoy it, everyone at the dinner cleaned their plates, but I think I’ve become a little used to the taste. Feedback is so important for dialing a dish in.
To lighten the intensity of the purslane’s tartness, I ended up cutting the weight in half with watercress, since it’a neutral tasting cooked, but another mild green would be easy to substitute like spinach, lettuce, amaranth or dinosaur kale would work just fine. Or, just cut down the purslane to 25% of your blend.
Later in the year, I actually got to have a woman from Ecuador make me a plate of her “quelites”, which was a similar blend cooked with jalapeño, garlic, and tomato, finished with fresh lime juice. It was great, and know that you can add other things to make this your own, but it should have at least tomato and some jalapeño/heat, in my opinion to taste like hers.
Braised Purslane with Tomatoes and Duck Fat
- 8 ounces watercress
- 8 ounces purslane
- 2 large roma tomatoes
- 1/4 cup duck fat poultry fat, or another lard or flavorful oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- A few slices of jalapeño or Serrano chili to taste (optional)
- 1 teaspoon 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 yellow onion diced 1/4 inch
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Remove the cores from the tomatoes, then slash the other end with an X. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for a minute or two, then remove to an ice bath and chill. Remove the skin from the tomatoes, cut the in half and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into 1/2 inch dice and reserve.
- In a large skillet about 10-12 inches, heat the duck fat, garlic, jalapeño and onion until the onions are translucent. Add the watercress, purslane, and tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are well wilted. Season the greens with salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.