We’d guess that many people aren’t even sure what verdolagas are, much less how to use them to make a meal. We were in that same boat several years ago when we picked up our first bunch from the CSA. We’d never seen them before, although we’d heard of them, perhaps most often by their English name: purslane. But, we were up for a challenge, so we placed them in our tote bag and took them home to try.
We’re sure that we’d received tips on how to cook and eat the verdolagas in that week’s CSA newsletter, which probably helped, but it’s been so long ago, we can’t be sure what those tips included. We just claim that this recipe is our invention, but was influenced by the Tucson CSA.
Now, instead of looking at verdolagas with a bit of trepidation, we look forward to getting a bunch in our share. They have a slightly tart flavor and retain some of their crispness with cooking.
Okay, about verdolagas or purslane. Here in the US, most farmers think of purslane as a weed and try to eradicate it, which is a shame, because it’s a very tasty vegetable that just happens to grow like a weed. Because it’s thought of as a weed here in the US, you may have trouble finding it at your local grocery store. We suggest that you see if there’s an ethnic market where you live, especially if it caters to Hispanics, as verdolagas are often used in Mexican cooking, and you’ll probably be able to pick up some without any trouble. For the tomatoes, we often use a can of chopped tomatoes, but, this week, we had some fresh heirloom tomatoes, so we used those. Both work equally well in this dish. The fresh lemon juice is key here; you do need it as it helps to bring out the tart flavor of the verdolagas. For the tortillas, fresh home-scratched tortillas are the best and you’ll have plenty of time to roll and cook up a small batch. They’re really easy, so it’s definitely worth it.
Procedure in detail:
Cook onion. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. A skillet is preferable to a saucepan because you need to cook off a bunch of liquid and a skillet provides a larger surface area, allowing the liquid to boil away faster. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, cumin seeds, and a bit of red pepper flake. Cook, stirring, until the seeds begin to pop.
Add verdolagas and tomatoes. Stir in the verdolagas and tomatoes. If needed, reduce the heat, but let everything simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and most of the liquid has evaporated. Meanwhile, cook or heat the tortillas and wrap in a clean dishtowel to keep warm.
Add lemon juice. Stir in the lemon juice, then simmer for another 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Season. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. We suggest that you add the salt and pepper right near the end since you’ve cooked off a lot of liquid. If you salted the dish early on, you might end up with something that’s way too salty at the finish.
Fill tortillas. Divide the verdolagas mixture among the tortillas and roll up like a burrito. You can add other burrito toppings if you wish.
Almost every time we get verdolagas, we make these burritos for a meal. We like the tangyness of the lemon and verdolagas against the slight sweetness of the tomato, and we like that we can change up our meal just by having other toppings at the ready (although many times we have these burritos just “plain”), such as cheese, sour cream, or jalapenos. If you’re new to eating verdolagas, we think this is the best way to start; before you know it, you’ll be searching for them on a regular basis, so we’ll say four stars.