Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Purslane with Sweet Onions

One day last week, while perusing our Coop's vegetable aisle and pining after the now-absent baby rainbow chard, my eyes fell on a bunch of some weedy looking thing I'd never seen before. A little detective work with the signs above (not purple kale, because it's not purple...not carrots, because I definitely know what those look like) suggested the mystery vegetable was purslane. I had no idea what purslane was, although it sounded vaguely familiar. (Turns out this is because Michael Pollan mentions it in passing as an example of how wild foods are often very healthy, which, apparently, purslane is.) But something about the way the tips of the weedy little sprigs jutted forward looked like a challenge. I will buy you, I said to them, hopefully under my breath although in retrospect, one never can be sure. I will buy you, and I will cook you. I fixed the stems with a steely gaze.

The problem, it turned out, when Phase I of my two-part plan (the buying of the purslane) had been completed, was that nobody seemed to know how to cook purslane (which was, if you recall, the crucial Phase II). I could find recipes online for salads and some people suggested using it on sandwiches, but I had distinctly (and hopefully silently) sworn to cook it, and a salad seemed like wimping out. Also, it tasted citrusy, almost sour, and I thought it might need something sweet to balance the flavor. So:

Olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced into thin half-rings
1 bunch purslane, washed
Salt & pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a wide pan over medium-high heat. Add onion rings and saute until golden and sweet-smelling, turning down the heat a little if necessary to avoid too much browning (although a little bit browned is perfect).

Meanwhile, cut the bottom 1/2 inch or so off the purslane stems, and then chop coarsely (I left it as a bunch and just sliced in one-inch intervals).

When the onions are carmelized, turn the heat back to medium-high and add the purslane.

Stir-fry for a minute or two, until the leaves just begin to wilt, add salt and pepper, and serve.

The citrusy taste of the purslane goes particularly well with salmon -- for dinner that night, we covered a piece of wild salmon with black mustard seeds and a few curry leaves, pan-fried it, then served over a bed of wild rice cooked with some chopped shallot:


  1. Welcome to the blogging world. It always sort of sucks you in when you least expect it.

    Regarding caramelizing onions, to avoid burning, sprinkle with salt before or just when adding to the pan. This starts to pull the liquid out and makes for better caramelizing without nearly the same risk of burning.

    Similarly, if you want to really brown something, don't salt it until after it's been browned. It'll sit there and cook through without crisping up the way you want it to.

  2. Ooh, thank for the tip (and for the inaugural comment)!