Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cooking With Purslane

A little song to sing while stirring the pot.
“O humble plant in sidewalk cracks, what treasures do your leaves contain?
Who knows? Perhaps you're a Cinderella in disguise.”

About a year ago, Pat Veretto, moderator for the Dollar Stretcher Community, mentioned this spreading-red-stemmed-succulent in passing as a good foraging plant. Yikes! I had been pulling it up as a weed for years. Being a bit of a bohemian, I tried it out. It tasted like lemony spinach. We ate it twice in a salad that spring with cut grape tomatoes, a bit of chopped sweet onion, in a vinaigrette. Quite pretty and good. The only downside, the leaves are the size of a pinky nail or smaller and a bit hard to pick up with a fork.

So this year I’m experimenting. Last week I cooked whole tender plants in a pasta dish with crushed tomato, a bit of extra garlic, some leftover spinach, mozzarella and ricotta. Good. The second experiment was inspired by an online mention of purslane casserole using corn meal and egg. “Why not bake it in corn bread?” So I added a cup of leaves and a cup of grated cheddar to this terrific cornbread recipe. It was a hit. Today I made purslane pesto. The guys will have it tonight. During preliminary tests John thought it tasted a bit too “green”. It seems quite similar to a spinach pesto I make during winter months, so we’ll see how it flies over a mound of hot angel hair pasta. With boys, pasta helps.

Here’s the recipe. Without a net.
Wash whole plants in a salad spinner, spin away, then pick the leaves off.
1 cup purslane leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
Blend until smooth.
Add and blend until fairly smooth..
1/3 cup Parmesan
1/3 cup English Walnuts
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
2 Tablespoons dried basil leaves

You may need to add a tad of pasta water to it before mixing with the pasta as it’s thick. Should be enough for about a pound’s worth.

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