I am still eating weeds, and it’s got people talking. This time my weed du jour is purslane.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) also known as Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed or (my favorite) Pusley, is a succulent plant that is found most commonly in Mexican, Greek, and Middle Eastern cooking. It grows rampantly in our Mediterranean climate and it is readily available at the Hollywood Farmers Market. It gets very little attention as far as I have noticed. In fact, I have walked past bunches of it every Sunday for years without looking twice.
But all that changed today because of a very knowledgeable young woman named Andrea. You see, I was reading Fork Fingers Chopsticks recently and Andrea did a purslane salad that convinced me it was time to try this weed myself. I am very impressionable you know, so don’t jump off a cliff I just might follow you…
Of course, my personality disorders probably don’t interest you. You are here to learn about this weed I have been whacking on about… Well, it is a low-growing, creeping plant with small paddle-shaped green leaves and a thick reddish stem. Elizabeth Schneider describes it quite well in her book Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini:
Perky purslane has oval, juicy-slippery, medium green or yellow-green leaves (more like pads) and a mild, fresh flavor brightened by a tart finish. Wild purslane (it grows naturally in most organic gardens, so “wild” seems an exaggeration) and cultivated purslane can be quite different… At its best (usually wild), purslane has a sorrel tang and a hint of tomato; mediocre purslane (usually cultivated), can be bland and slimy but still looks cute.
Well, I am going to give the credit to Andrea at FFC for getting me to stop and notice the purslane at the Hollywood Farmers Market today. But the inspiration for this salad came from an entire country. The country of Turkey. I have been quite interested in Turkish food lately and have been experimenting with these flavors quite a bit. But I am not going to give the Turks all the credit for today’s recipe. Because in some ways it’s original to me. Or at least I, to suit the meal I am planning tonight, have reinterpreted it.
I am serving a tasty mixture of purslane, cucumber, tomato and jalapeño as a salad. The type you would eat with a fork. Or at least I would eat it with a fork. But my salad is actually based on a relish you might find in most any tavern or restaurant in Istanbul. It often accompanies grilled meat– especially kebabs. The Turkish version is finely chopped and most typically eaten with a spoon, as are many side dishes in Turkish cuisine.
But I am going to a BBQ tonight at a friend’s house so I have left mine chunky so as to be familiar to its intended American audience as a (semi) standard, super flavorful, conversation starting– purslane weed whacker salad.
Spicy Purslane, Tomato, Cucumber, Mint, and Parsley Salad serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipe Inspired by the cookbook Mediterranean Hot & Spicy
- 2 c cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1⁄2 English cucumber quartered lengthwise and finely sliced crosswise
- 2 c tightly packed purslane leaves and small branches
- 3 scallions, including most of the green, thinly sliced
- 3 T chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 T fresh thyme leaves
- 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely diced
- 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 2 t lemon zest, finely grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- pinch of sumac (optional)
- 1 c tightly packed coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
To make the salad: Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters crosswise and squeeze lightly to remove the seeds, transfer to a strainer to drain. In a salad bowl, mix together the cucumber, purslane, scallions, herbs, and jalapeños. Add the tomatoes once well drained.
To make the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the salad and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes to give the flavors time to meld. Sprinkle with sumac before serving if you like.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD