Purslane Two Ways

I first read about purslane in a book about smoothies that I received for my birthday this summer.

In her book, Boutenko writes about the benefits of having variety among the greens that we include in our diets. Rotating the green leafy vegetables that you consume has an evolutionary purpose which she explains aptly in the beginning of her book. One of the suggested greens in the beginner smoothies section is purslane, a weed that is common to North American gardens and lawns. In the spirit of varying my leafy greens, I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately it was not that easy to do. I do not have a yard and therefore do not grow purslane (neither intentionally nor accidentally). It seems that the only thing I am growing on my small bit of property on the second floor of a Richmond apartment is balcony squirrels. They have nested in the rafters above my balcony and I have had little success keeping anything else alive in the small patch of sunshine outside my glass-paned door. I kept an eye out for purslane at the grocery store and the farmers’ market for weeks, and then one day I found it at the SOTJ farmers’ market. I snatched the last bag of it – can you believe it?!

Even less believable is the fact that I paid $2 for a few handfuls of a common weed. Most avid gardeners might pay me to pluck this out of their yards, but here I am forking over my cash for a parcel of the über-healthy greens.

Purslane is a better source of omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy plant.

Think about that for a minute. Homeowners across America are going to the drugstore to pick up their expensive fish oil supplements and then heading home to eradicate purslane, an excellent source of omega-3’s, from their own backyards. Maybe not in that exact order, but still. Crazy. Purslane is also rich in beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C. I was pumped to try out this superfood in my own kitchen.

Peach Purslane Smoothie

I had to take a cue from the book that brought this power-packed plant to my attention, and try it out in a smoothie. I first tasted it raw, as I often do with new ingredients. I had read that has a fresh but bitter taste like watercress. Another source described it as lemony with a peppery kick. When I popped a few leaves in my mouth, I tasted grass. And that was about it. A little disappointing, but I was not deterred.

I mixed in a blender: purslane, frozen mango, water, and fresh peach.

This time it tasted peachy – with a hint of grass. But hey, what do you expect from a green smoothie? It tasted like health food but it tasted good. Kyle and I enjoyed it, however I don’t know if it’s for everyone. Good news though: my second preparation of purslane showed crowd-pleasing potential.

Purslane Potato Salad

I didn’t measure exactly – sorry! I have tried to approximate the proportion of ingredients below. This mixture was quite a hit.

Cut one pound of red potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. While the potatoes cook, chop 2-3 green onions and a bunch of purslane (about one cup). Add the juice of one large lemon to 1/3 cup of olive oil in a medium bowl and whisk until mixed. To the dressing, add the onions and purslane. Drain the potatoes and cool. Add the potatoes to the bowl and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Chill at least a few hours before serving.

And we have a winner!

This potato salad was sweet, sour, tangy, and smooth. All of the elements combined to make this a refreshing side to our meal. We had this potato salad alongside marinated roasted vegetable stacks with fresh basil and ricotta and warm sungold tomatoes.

This is the dish that will keep me paying $2 for a handful of weeds. One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. 🙂

Patty Pan Squash

I have had great luck with squash from Walnut Hill Farm this summer. Remember these eight ball zucchini that I ended up having to cook in the microwave? They were from Walnut Hill and so are these.

I have been intrigued by these flying saucer shaped squash for a long time. They have been calling my name all summer, but this week I guess they called a little louder. My only regret in fixing this meal is that I couldn’t find the time to swing by Blockbuster and pick up a B movie sci-fi flick to pop in for dinner and a movie. I was quite eager to celebrate this ingredient’s quirky shape in as many ways as possible.

The delectable patty pan squash. Pairs well with alien guts.

These squash come in white, yellow, and green varieties. According to my research, they are best when they are 2-3″ in diameter. The squash that I picked up were about 3-4″ diameter but still tasty. This is a low calorie vegetable that is a great source of vitamins C and A, magnesium, and iron. I was familiar with which squash types were summer varieties and which were winter varieties, but while digging for some info on these gourds, I learned the criteria for classification. The main difference between the two varieties is that summer squash may be eaten in their entirety (seeds, rind, and all), while winter squash are often seeded and peeled before cooking.

I read that they are sometimes nutty in flavor and I thought, what better way to bring out their nuttiness than roasting? I made up this dish on the fly and it was very satisfying. The roasted patty pan squash held up well in the sustained high heat and it came out slightly sweet, dense and almost meaty. We loved the texture, color, and flavor of the roasted vegetables. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think this dish could be considered a vegetarian’s “meat and potatoes” kind of meal.

Roasted Patty Pan Squash with Red Potatoes

Ingredients

3 medium-sized patty pan squash

10-12 small red bliss potatoes

1/2 medium onion

Olive oil

Dried oregano*

Fresh basil*

Coarse salt*

Black pepper*

*I don’t usually measure herbs and spices – I just wing it. I apologize if that makes this a hard recipe to follow. But if I wanted to be precise (and if I didn’t have a talent for burning cookies), I’d be a baker!

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the onion into large chunks and slice the patty pan squash into wedges.

3. Place the squash, onion, and potatoes on a large deep baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.

4. Finely chop some fresh basil. I usually do a quick chiffonade by stacking and rolling the leaves into a little cigar shape and then slicing the roll from end to end. See a helpful demonstration of this method here.

5. Add dried oregano (or fresh if you have it) and fresh basil to the vegetables in the pan. Sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper. Toss to coat the ingredients in olive oil and seasoning.

6. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

7. Serve with couscous, pasta, or rice.

I served mine with parmesan couscous and this chickpea salad that I adapted from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens. Uh oh, do I sense a double recipe post? Oh yes I do.

Summer Chickpea Salad (see the original recipe here, which I have adapted)

Ingredients

2 cups chopped tomatoes

15 oz. can chickpeas

1/2 large cucumber, peeled, quartered, and sliced (about 1 cup chopped)

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon honey

Preparation

1. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro, and onion.

2. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, garlic, and honey. Mix well with a wire whisk.

3. Pour dressing over vegetable mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and chill for 4 hours or more.

I just love dinners outside in the summer. I think the lingering humidity in the air, the soft light as the sun sets behind the brick buildings that line my block, and the lively sounds of the neighborhood make the flavors of this season taste so much better.