Sunday, October 21, 2007

Purslane: Raw and Uncut

So, as I was saying. Purslane. It can take over your lawn in a matter of months, and it could be the savior of starving nations. It's got a lot on its plate.


The batches I got had a fairly generic herbaceous flavor eaten raw. The texture is a sort of meaty crunch, much like sunflower sprouts. (If you don't know sunflower sprouts, go find out immediately. They are the best things ever. They have that nutty sunflower seed flavor, but in the form of a healthier cool, crisp green. They are fantastic in salads, on sandwiches, and just plain for snacky munching. I wish I had some right now.) The next closest thing would be mung bean sprouts.

Its texture and nutritional boost is a great mitzvah to green salads, and in place of lettuce as a sandwich topping, but it's not so yummy I would just snack on it on its own.

I saw several recipes on line pairing it with cucumbers, so I thought I'd try it in the salad my dad's mother used to make for just about every meal all summer long. One or two cucumbers per person, peeled if they need it (she used Kirby's, I use either Kirby's or Persian's, which are like miniature English cukes--seedless, thin skinned, and very regularly shaped so you can get perfectly round, quarter sized slices). Put thinly sliced cukes in a bowl--with thinly sliced onions if you like--and sprinkle two pinches sugar, two shakes or grinds of pepper, and one pinch of salt per cuke over them, then shake some vinegar over it all. Don't drown them, just enough that they're in a good puddle of it. You can use whatever kind of vinegar you prefer. She always used white or apple cider. I've been preferring rice wine lately, but it's variable. Red wine and balsamic also taste good, but they look pretty hideous. Give it a stir and let it sit, at least an hour if you can, stirring every now and then as you think of it. It's a sliding scale--the longer you let them sit, the veggies get more limp, but also absorb more flavor. Every point on that scale--from fresh cucumbers with a slick patina of vinegar, to fully developed pickles (in the fridge a few days later) is scrumptious in its own way. Do experiment. I substituted purslane leaves for the optional onions, let it stew for about two hours, till the purslane just started to wilt, and it was perfectly delicious.

Purslane flecked cucumber salad was such a success, I thought I'd try it in another favorite recipe--egg salad. My egg salad comprises boiled eggs, heavily salted minced onions (the salt leaves the flavor while drawing out the harshness of the raw onion--make this first and let it sit while you put the rest of the salad together and it will be a revelation, I promise), and finely diced celery; dressed with a lot of mayo, a little mustard, a little salt and a lot of pepper. Sometimes if I'm feeling frisky I might stir some capers in, but that's rare, as frisky isn't usually the emotion that inspires one to make egg salad. This time I substituted purslane leaves for the celery. I thought I would miss the crunchy, but the the chewycrisp made up for it. And I really liked the faint grassy flavor it added.

After all this enjoyment of raw purslane, I couldn't wait to see how it cooked.

Yes, I'm leaving you hanging again. This time I'm not just stopping to adhere to Andrea Strong's advice about frequent posting. Now, it's self preservation. Corey's mother was in town from SoCal this weekend. Over the last two days we've dined, gloriously, at Morandi, Perilla, The Spotted Pig, and John's of Bleeker Street. At the moment, I feel inspired to fast for a few days, so I need to husband my posts. I'm self aware enough to know there is an 85% chance I'll be starving by tomorrow morning, but in case not, cooked purslane tomorrow!


JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

This is such a great concept for a blog! I am sure it keeps you creative with your ingredients so you have something to write about! Very cool!

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

Marsha, the Market Maven said...

Thanks Jenn, I hope so!

The blogroll is such a great idea--I'm very pleased to participate!