by Paula Wolfert
- 3/4 lb. purslane leaves and stems
- 1 cup parsley sprigs, tightly packed
- 1/2 cup cilantro, tightly packed
- 4 large garlic cloves
- Coarse salt
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 tsp. sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin seed, preferably Moroccan
- 1 Pinch of cayenne
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 preserved lemon
- 12 red or midway or green-ripe olives, rinsed and drained
Purslane is such a great tasting “weed,” and so rampant in gardens throughout the U.S., it’s well worth learning how to recognize it. You may also find it at farmers’ markets, but if you don’t, simply ask one of the sellers to bring some next time. In Morocco this salad is made with all sorts of leaves including stemmed purslane. Here I combine it with young spinach, celery, and parsley for a flavorful paste. Thin the paste with water and oil to use as a dip when ready to serve. As a paste well packed in a jar and covered with oil it will keep 3 to 4 days.
This salad is one of my favorites. It doesn’t always look as good as it tastes, because steamed purslane crushed to a purée emerges a homely soft green. But please don’t pass it by. This salad will keep several days, covered, in the refrigerator.
Stem the purslane leaves; wash the leaves under running water and drain. Fill the bottom of a deep pot with water and bring to a boil. Fasten on a colander, add the purslane leaves and steam, covered, for 12 minutes. (A few minutes longer if the leaves are very thick.)
Remove from the heat, uncover and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out moisture and set aside. Wash, dry, and chop the parsley and cilantro. Pound the garlic with 1 teaspoon salt to a purée. Add the chopped herbs to the mortar and pound to a paste.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 10-inch skillet and add the garlic–herb paste. Cook 1 to 2 minutes without burning, then add the purslane leaves and sauté slowly, until all the moisture has evaporated, turning the greens often to avoid burning, about 5 minutes. Scrape onto a chopping board; chop fine and work in the paprika, cumin, and cayenne. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Just before serving, blend in lemon juice and remaining olive oil; adjust the seasoning with salt. Rinse the preserved lemon peel and remove the pulp, then slice the peel into slivers. Put the salad in a serving dish with slivered peel and decorate with the olives. Serve cool.
Serves 4 to 6 as part of a traditional salad course.