Sunday, June 16, 2024

Verdologa adds flavor and texture to classic recipes

I think the first time I noticed verdolaga was during a weekly shopping trip at the big central market in Mazatlán. Standing in front of piles of produce at my regular stand, my gaze fell upon big bundles of what looked like some sort of succulent. Qué es eso? I asked Sergio.

He explained what it was and what to do with it, and I went home with a third of that giant bundle — about two big handfuls — and a new vegetable entered my culinary repertoire.

Since then, I’ve added verdolaga, called purslane in the United States, to a host of dishes. It tastes kind of like fresh-cut grass,  and I find it a wonderful flavor and texture addition to simple dishes like scrambled eggs, omelets, stir-fries, vegetable soups and, of course, salads.

At its most basic, verdolaga can be sautéed with garlic and chopped tomatoes in olive oil and eaten with warm tortillas. Both the stems and leaves are thick and juicy, crunchy when raw and becoming chewy and a bit mucilaginous when cooked — but not in a bad way! As you become more familiar with it, you’ll notice some bunches have smaller, thinner and younger stems and leaves, which will be more tender.

The word verdolaga comes from a nickname for South American football clubs, which have green and white uniforms, like Argentina’s Ferrocarril Oeste and  Colombia’s Atlético Nacional.

Verdolaga is indeed a succulent, with an almost infinite number of varieties. It grows wild all over the world and has been eaten for centuries, all the way back to prehistoric times. Cultivated varieties are more tender; all are high in vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. In Mexico, verdolaga is a popular vegetable easily found everywhere from big grocery stores (usually near the cilantro and fresh herbs) to your corner tienda.

This pork stew goes well with beans and tortillas.
This pork stew goes well with beans and tortillas.

Salsa Verde Verdolaga with Pork

  • 4 big handfuls verdolaga, washed, thick stems removed
  • 2 lb. pork shoulder or butt
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and quartered
  • 4 serrano chiles, halved
  • ½ onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped fine
  • ¼ – ½ cup beef stock or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Clean verdolaga, removing thick stems. Trim the pork, cut into palm-sized pieces, and salt liberally on all sides. In a blender or food processor, mix tomatillos, onion, garlic, chiles and cilantro on high speed until smooth.

In a deep Dutch oven or stew pot, sear pork to brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Pour tomatillo sauce into hot pan to deglaze, stirring well. Add broth or water to pan and place meat back into the liquid. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 1 hour.

When meat begins to pull apart, add the verdolaga. Cook about 30 minutes more until meat is easily pulled apart with a fork.

Serve in a bowl with black beans and flour tortillas.

Top these scrambled eggs and verdologa with the salsa of your choice.
Top these scrambled eggs and verdologa with the salsa of your choice.

Scrambled Eggs with Verdolaga

  • 3 handfuls verdolaga
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 onion
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil or butter

Clean verdolaga, removing thick stems. In a medium saucepan, bring it to a boil and then cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from pan, drain and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk eggs well. Finely chop the onion and sauté in a hot pan with olive oil or butter.

Add eggs, lower heat and cook, gently stirring, till almost done. Add cooked verdolaga and stir, cooking for 2 more minutes or so.

Top with salsa of your choice.

Verdolaga Salad with Mango Vinaigrette

  • 4 cups verdolaga, cleaned
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, minced
  • ½ cup mango pulp or finely chopped fresh mango
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • Optional: 1 cup any kind of lettuce

In a bowl, mix verdolaga, chicken, tomato, mint leaves and other lettuce, if using.

Set aside.

In a jar, put mango, ginger, olive oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper and sugar; shake well to mix.

Pour over the salad and stir gently.

Verdologa is called purslane in English.
Verdologa is called purslane in English.

Turkish Stew with Verdolaga

This classic Turkish dish is usually served garnished with a dollop of yogurt.

  • 1 bunch verdologa (about 3-4 cups)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 big tomato, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, or to taste
  • Salt & pepper

Rinse verdogola and remove thick stems. Slice onions and carrots. Add olive oil to a large saucepan, add onions and garlic and sauté for a minute on medium-low heat, then add carrots. Chop verdolaga roughly and add to the mixture; add tomato.

Cook, covered, for 10 minutes on low heat.

Sopa de Verdolaga y Lentejas

  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • Pinch of red dried red pepper flakes
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. of pepper
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 3 cups packed verdolaga, cleaned, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Sauté onion in olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat until translucent and lightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Add 4 cups of boiling vegetable stock or water to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add lentils and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in verdolaga and chickpeas, lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-7 minutes more.

Adjust seasonings and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Janet Blaser has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to be able to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats is her first book.

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