Cooked with Green Salsa, Butternut Squash and Potatoes
By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
I was thrilled to rediscover purslane at a small market in the Sunset that carries ethnic food items. I had also witnessed these leafy greens sold in outdoor markets in Mexico. Apparently, purslane grows wild almost everywhere in the world as it does not need much care or a good soil.
Historical evidence show that purslane has been consumed by the ancient Greeks and Romans for at least 2000 years. Due to its high nutritional contents, purslane was used medicinally in the ancient China and India. However, this humble, healthy weed is hard to find in American supermarkets. Purslane is easy to find in the wild. But foragers should be careful; it may be sprayed with harmful herbicides as it is considered an invasive “weed” by gardeners. In San Francisco, you can buy purslane at farmers markets from growers who carry ethnic vegetables and at some produce markets in the Mission district.
The amazingly purslane is packed with many healthy nutrients. Also, purslane is low in calories and high in fibers. It is a rich source of the powerful antioxidants, vitamin A and C. These vitamins can also aid us in our vision and skin health. Purslane contains iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all beneficial to our bone health. And, omega 3 fatty acids, beneficial to our cardiovascular health are found in more abundance in purslane than in any other leafy greens!
Mahatma Gandhi listed purslane as one of his most favorite food and Michael Pollan has praised it as one of the healthiest plants on the planet. However, the culinary world seems to have ignored purslane for the most part. I have not noticed purslane in any major cookbooks or in any restaurants’ menu. However, purslane is included in home cooking in many countries. Indian women cook purslane (known as luni bhaji) with daals (lentil- based soups). Italians use it in salads. Mexican folks cook these leafy greens in stews with meat and/or other vegetables.
I created this recipe inspired by a Mexican method of cooking purslane with salsa verde. I added another healthy vegetable, butternut squash, which complements tartness of salsa and purslane.
Ingredients for Salsa Verde
6 to 8 tomatillos (about ½ to ¾ lb.), husks removed and rinsed
3 to 4 green onions (scallions) with most of their green parts
1 jalapeno with seeds and middle stem removed (use less for a milder version)
3 to 4 tablespoon chopped cilantro, thick stems removed
¾ teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the entrée:
1 cup home-made salsa verde (using the ingredients above and instruction provided below)
or 1 cup store bought salsa verde but not in can please
2 cups parboiled and peeled butternut squash chunks
1 cup parboiled and peeled potato chunks
3 cups of purslane leaves, rinsed thoroughly and all stems removed
3 tablespoon olive oil
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
A few tablespoons of chopped cilantro
A spoon of minced jalapeno
First make the salsa verde. This can be done ahead of time. Boil tomatillos in a saucepot with 4 cups of water for 7 to 10 minutes until they become very soft. Drain them and place them in a blender, or a food processor, with scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, and salt. Blend the ingredients into a fine sauce. Store the salsa in a glass jar and set it aside. You will only use a cup of the salsa for this recipe. The rest can be kept for future use in the refrigerator for a week.
In a separate pot, boil 2 quarts of water. Cut the butternut squash into two pieces. You will only need half a squash to obtain 2 cups of small cubes. Cut the half squash into 4 pieces and put them in boiling water. Cut potato into 4 pieces and add them to the pot of squash. Parboil the squash and potato pieces for 10 minutes, just enough to be able to peel them. (They will cook more later). Place the parboiled chunks into a bowl of cold water. Now the squash and potatoes can be easily peeled with a paring knife. Peel the chunks and cut them into bite size pieces and set them aside.
Next clean the purslane leaves. Soak them in cold water to remove all the dirt. Then, remove all twigs and stems and discard them. Collect the leaves and set them aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic. When it starts to smell fragrant, add the squash and potato pieces and stir fry for two minutes. Then add a cup of salsa and continue to stir fry for a minute to mix. Next, cover and cook over a low to moderate flame for 5 -8 minutes. Uncover and check to see if the potatoes and squash chunks are fully cooked. If not, cook for another few minutes (adding a few spoons of water, if necessary) until chunks have softened. Next, add the purslane leaves and salt. Stir fry everything together for a few minutes until the leaves have been wilted. Garnish with a tablespoon of cilantro and a teaspoon of minced jalapeno (optional).
Place leftover cilantro and jalapeno in separate bowls for diners who may want to add more. Serve the entrée with rice and/or warm tortillas.
Recipe © Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, 2021
Shanta is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” both available at Other Avenues Food Co-op., Green Apple Book Store, Rainbow Grocery Co-op, and at local bookstores. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and teaches cooking classes. You can view Shanta’s recipe videos by clicking Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s YouTube videos.
Categories: Cooking Together