We are in the midst of a great American food revolution. Farmers markets around the country are the front lines of this cultural awakening directly connecting urban dwellers with regional farm and food producers. Chefs have discovered farm-fresh produce as the secret to fine cuisine which has led to an increase in their patron’s culinary awareness and high expectations.
Community and markets go hand in hand. Farmers markets are places to learn about food, regions, farms and community events. One of the simple pleasures in my life is discussing local foods and agricultural trends with small farmers who have a direct connection to the earth.
The communities of the ancient world situated their markets in town squares and city centers since this was where people gathered–these markets tended to be the seat of government as well. Famously, democracy was created in the Agora (marketplace) of ancient Athens.
I shop two or three farmers markets weekly buying an exciting variety of seasonal produce. Nature provides the nutritive balance with different plants maturing each week during the growing season. Traditional cultures around the world synchronized their lives around the cycles of indigenous growth and harvests.
However, in today’s markets, farmers have a tendency to grow what sells. While this may make good business sense, the unfortunate result is that the educational aspects of the markets are lessened. So, when I see unusual offerings, such as green amaranth, bitter melon or, one of my favorite culinary treasures, purslane, my mind begins to conjure up different ways to prepare dishes with the fresh delicacies before me.
Purslane is a nutritional powerhouse savored by most of the great food cultures of the world. It is one of the highest plant sources in Omega 3 fatty acids and rich in vitamins A, C, Potassium and Alpha-Linoleic acid. It was well known to ancient cultures in the Mideast and Asia and used in traditional Chinese medicine for bee stings and snake bites. Pliny advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil.
Here in a America, purslane was relegated to the status of a weed. Crop rows and sidewalks across the country are sprayed with herbicides to eradicate this perceived nuisance. It thrives in harsh, dry climates and, as a companion plant, enables less hardy plants to survive by helping the root systems reach greater depths. It also helps create a beneficial microclimate and stabilize moisture levels–not to mention, it is delicious!
This recipe takes about 30 minutes. The sauteed purslane and lacinato kale rolls may be prepared individually, but I chose to combine them for complimentary flavor and drama of presentation.
Lacinato Kale Roll with Sautéed Purslane
Makes 8 rolls, serves 4 to 8
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 cup spring onions, sliced
2 bunches, or 6 cups, purslane, washed, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
In a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat, cook the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper for 5 to 10 seconds or until the garlic and chiles sizzle. Add the onion, purslane and sea salt. Cook for 30 seconds, cover and turn down to a simmer.
1/2 cup Vegenaise, vegan mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons roasted red pepper
2 teaspoons organic tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
In a separate bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients.
Filling and assembly
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
In another thoroughly fold together all filling ingredients.
8 large lacinato kale leaves, stemmed
Place 1 heaping tablespoon at the top of the kale leaf and, while folding the
side edges in, roll the leaf into a stuffed grape leaf shape. Steam for 12 minutes on medium high heat. Place 1 cup purslane on plate, place one roll on top and top with 1 ½ tablespoons sauce.
Serve while hot.