Last year Rich and I saw verdolagas at the farmers' market for the first time and learned the English name; Purslane. Verdolagas is a very common thing to eat in Mexico where it is sold in most groceries stores but it is hard to find in San Diego stores. Luckily, it grows wild everywhere. A long time ago, before Rich became a vegetarian, I used to prepare this green leaf and red stem plant in a stew with shrimp. My mother, as most people I know, prepares it with beef backbone in a red chile sauce (verdolagas con espinazo). It is delish!
One day, while cleaning my garden, I discovered a new weed growing. I was very excited when I recognized this weed as Verdolagas. I decided to let it grow to harvest at a later day, and that day came! Since Rich doesn't eat meat anymore and I wanted the dish my mother used to make, I called my brother Cuco and his family to come and join me in my feast of verdolagas (I had a lot!). They brought the meat and I had the rest.
I didn't want Rich to miss the flavor of verdolagas that he used to like so much. We looked up a recipe from epicurious that uses uncooked verdolagas, grilled zucchini, tomatoes and parsley. This was the first time I ate uncooked verdolagas, I liked them.
If you recognize this weed and have it growing in your garden, don't just pull it, try to cook with it. I think you'll enjoy it.
Purslene with Backbone Stew
3 lb. backbone, beef or pork
1.1/2 medium onion
5 cloves of garlic
3 red dried chilies (california)
1 lb. tomatillo (about 6 medium)
4 bunches of fresh purslane, cleaned (from your garden or buy at the farmers' market)
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, add backbone and cover with water. Add 1 onion cut in half and 3 cloves of garlic. Add salt to taste and cook at low heat for 1-2 hours or until the meat is tender.
In a medium pot, add the red chilies, 2 cloves of garlic, tomatillo, and half of onion. Cover with water and cook for 15 minutes. When cooked, process in a blender with salt and pepper to taste. Put the sauce through a strainer to separate the solids. Reserve aside.
When the meat is cooked, add the sauce to the stew and let it come to boil for 5 more minutes. If needed, add more salt and pepper. Add purslane, turn the stove off and cover. Purslane will cook with the heat of the stew and would be ready to serve in 3 minute. Serve hot accompanied with beans and corn tortillas.
Grilled Zucchini Salad with Purslane and Tomato (from Epicurious)
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
3 Tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tsp finely chopped shallot
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing zucchini
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 Tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 zucchini, halved lengthwise
12 oz purslane, thick stems removed (4 cups)
10 oz pear or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Whisk together zest, lemon juice, shallot, mustard, and salt in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisk until dressing is emulsified. Whisk in pepper and parsley.
Lightly brush zucchini all over with oil. When fire is hot, grill zucchini about 4 minutes on each side or until tender. Transfer to a board and cut in 1/2-inch slices.
Toss zucchini with purslane, tomatoes and dressing in a large bowl. Serve immediately.