Verdolagas are thick, tender greens that have an acidic, mouth-warming bite, almost like mint when they’re raw. The greens are popular during the rainy season in Mexico, and they can be found at markets across the United States under the name purslane. The word purslane sounds kind of old and fuddy-duddy, but verdolagas deserve a little more credit. The best thing about them is that they don’t turn to mush once they’ve cooked. Even after simmering in a tomatillo or tomato sauce—the preferred Mexican way of preparing them—verdolagas are still meaty, juicy and slightly sweet.
This recipe comes from a cookbook I scored at a Mexico City flea market called México en la Cocina de Marichu. Marichu, the author, wrote several cookbooks for Mexican home cooks in the 1960s and 70s. México en la Cocina de Marichu is full of traditional favorites, including chiles rellenos, atoles and tamales.
Many Mexican cooks add pork to this dish, usually ribs or pork spine, but I don’t think it necessarily needs it. If you want to add pork anyway, fry the meat first in a pan, then add water and salt, cover and cook on low until the meat is tender and done. About a pound of meat would work fine for this dish. Serve your stewed verdolagas with beans and warm tortillas.
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VERDOLAGAS EN SALSA VERDE
Adapted and translated from Mexico en la Cocina de Marichu,
1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of verdolagas
750 grams (1.65 pounds) of tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3 serrano chiles (less if you don’t like things too spicy)
1 garlic clove
1 small onion
4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoon cilantro
salt to taste
1. Heat a pot of water to a slow, gentle boil. Add your tomatillos, serrano chiles, garlic, and whole small onion. Cook until the tomatoes and chiles have softened and turned a dull green color.
2. While the vegetables cook, rinse the verdolagas thoroughly and scrub the leaves with your fingers to release any grit. (They’ve got a lot of grit—I rinsed and scrubbed mine three separate times.)
3. Pluck the leaves and tender stems off the thicker stems. Discard the thick stems.
4. When the tomatillo and chile mixture has finished cooking, remove the garlic and onion to a food processor or blender, and blend until well combined. Then add the tomatillo and serrano chiles. Add a little water or chicken broth if the mixture looks too thick.
6. Remove salsa to a frying pan heated with the four tablespoons oil. Fry salsa for a few minutes until warm, and then add the cooked pork, if using.
7. Cook for approximately 5-10 minutes, until flavors have combined.
8. Add verdolagas and salt to taste. When the verdolagas are limp and tender, add cilantro. (Feel free to add broth or water along the way if the mixture feels too thick.)