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.
Nowadays, I find myself spending more time admiring the flowers in my back yard. Oh, what a beautiful flor de calabaza, squash-blossom, that is. I love it, the bees love it, it's good for my garden and it's good to eat too!
Flor de calabaza is one of the many edible flower that you can find in farmers' markets or specialty stores. But if you grow your own zucchini and summer squash, you can enjoy the extra bonus of their blossoms. You can prepare it in many different ways; in soups, tamales and crepes. You can stuff the squash blossom with cheese or mince meat, dip it in a batter and fry it; or use it to stuff chicken, meat or even vegetables. The possibilities are endless. My favorite way of eating this flower is in a simple but delicious quesadilla.
When I hear someone say quesadillas de flor de calabaza my mind is immediately transported to Oaxaca, a city in the southern part of Mexico. In Oaxaca I ate the most incredible food and the best quesadillas ever! The reason I think the quesadillas are so good in Oaxaca is because they are prepared with a locally made cheese called, if you can believe it - Oaxaca! I remember stopping at a food stand in the mercado. The women were mixing masa and making corn tortillas for my quesadilla right in front of me. Mmm, they smelled so good!
This meal can be made as easy as 1-2-3, with just a couple ingredients from your garden, freshly made corn tortillas and, of course, cheese (Oaxaca cheese if possible).
1/ 2 lb. Oaxaca cheese, shredded (substitute with monterrey jack if Oaxaca is not available)
1 lb. masa harina flour (I use Maseca brand) or 6 small corn tortillas
If using masa harina, mix according to the directions on the package to make the dough. Form masa into 6 1 1/2" balls then loosely cover with a damp kitchen towel. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap (a cut up plastic bag works well) over base of tortilla press, draping it over the sides. Place 1 ball of masa on plastic. Lay another sheet of plastic wrap over the masa, draping it over the sides, then close the press to flatten masa into a tortilla. Peel the plastic from one side of the tortilla. Fill half of the tortilla with cheese, a couple of zucchini blossoms and sprinkle with epazote or oregano. Then, holding the remaining plastic with one hand, fold other half of tortilla over the filling to form a half circle. Press edges, carefully remove plastic from quesadilla, then place on a flat pan or griddle at medium heat. Cook for a few minutes on each side until cooked through and cheese has melted.
If using already made tortillas, slightly warm the tortilla. Remove from the heat, add the filling to one side of the tortilla, fold the other side over the filling and return to the griddle. Cook about 1 minute on each side or until the cheese melts.