Monday, July 11, 2011

Meatless Monday: Purslane and Garlic Scape Pesto

A few weeks ago I mentioned foraging purslane, a plant that grows all over the world and is harvested in many countries.  (Some people refer to it as a weed, but a "weed" is just a plant out of place.)  Most Americans have purslane growing in their gardens and pull it out and throw it away without thinking twice, but I'd like to suggest you let it grow and put it to good use in your kitchen.
Why should you use purslane?
Other than the fact that it grows everywhere (I saw some growing between the cracks in the sidewalk today) purslane is delicious and nutritious.  The entire plant is edible, and purslane has the highest amount of omega 3s of any vegetable.  If you are a vegan or just looking to cut down your animal product intake, this is an excellent reason to consider eating purslane.
For culinary purposes, purslane is useful because it thickens anything you use it in once the leaves and stems are crushed.  It is a succulent, like cacti, and when you cut into it, it secrets a mucous-like substance that provides body and structure to foods.  Its flavor is grassy and green.
Today I'm going to give you one good and easy recipe to explore purslane.  This pesto has a bright flavor and stores very well in the freezer so you can get a taste of bright green in the middle of winter.
Note: I harvested this purslane from my garden because it was starting to interfere with the light that my other plants were getting.  It will thrive as long as you let it, and spread widely, so be sure to harvest before it takes over light and nutrients from your other plants.
Purslane and Garlic Scape Pesto
2 c. purslane
1 c. garlic scapes
1 c. basil leaves
1 small onion
1/4 c. oregano leaves
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. parmesan cheese (any dry cheese would do fine)
1/3 c. walnuts (pine nuts would be fine but are much more expensive)
a squeeze (approx. 2 tbsp.) lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper

I cooked the onion and scapes.  If you'd prefer a raw version you may skip this step, but be warned that some scapes have a bitter and harsh taste.  Cooking them softens the heat, and the heated onions will add sweetness.

Begin with your purslane.  Wash it thoroughly.  You're free to use the stems so long as they aren't too big.  If you're not sure, take a bite!  If the texture is tough and stringy, discard the stems and use only the leaves.  I used two big handfuls estimating each to be around a cup.
DSC02739Take your garlic scapes
and slice them thinly.  Throw them in a pan in olive oil with your onion, chopped, and season both with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, thoroughly clean your herbs.  Use as much basil as you can spare from the garden or afford from market.  
At the same time, toast your walnuts over low heat in a dry pan or in the oven.  Let them cool.
DSC02743Once your onion is soft and the scapes are bright green, remove them from heat and throw them into your food processor with your herbs.
DSC02764Add the purslane, cut into small pieces.
DSC02765Pulse five to seven times, just to get it going.  Add your nuts, cheese, oil, salt, and pepper.
DSC02769Whir until it gets nice and creamy.  Take a taste.  I added a little more cheese because I can never get enough, and a lot more salt.  Pesto, like hummus, is personal and inexact.  Use your nose! It should have a good balance of grassy green from the purslane, basil, and oregano, and creamy richness from the nuts, oil and cheese.
DSC02772To store, pack into ice cube trays.  Once this freezes, you can move the cubes into a freezer container.
DSC02773Your moments of work will be rewarded in January with hot pasta that tastes like summer and is really good for you.
Now go find some purslane and eat it!


Tracy P. said...

Thank you Alicia!

shanmari said...

I am reading this post today, because typing purslane into google, I am surprised (though I shouldn't be: it is Google) to find as the number one result that my friend, Alicia, has posted about purslane. My search was for some excellent recipes to take camping this weekend. Scapes and purslane are abundant right now, so pesto I will make. Thanks!

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