Verdolagas con Costillas de Puerco
I think my relationship with New York is steady enough that I can admit we’d recently hit a rough patch. I’d spent so much time away last year that it felt like I was living consecutive winters. It wore me down and I took it out on the city that had become all work. Now that we’re having this beautiful summer, every day comes closer to New York’s song-and-dance ideal and I’m in love again. I even gave in and bought a new bicycle -albeit one that is technically older than I am – a copper colored Schwinn Suburban step-through with an honeywood basket. It’s heavy, impractical and my favorite thing in the world right now.
I’ve mostly been using it to get around Brooklyn. With the markets at their peak, I’m bringing home big hauls then figuring out what to make of it all later. It was on my usual Saturday morning run to Borough Hall that I picked up bundles of purslane. Largely viewed as a weed in the United States, purslane or verdolaga is a staple in central Mexican recipes boasting an impressive nutritional profile rich in omega-3. Because this blog focuses on Latin America, I often find myself seeking out hard to find ingredients to make what should be simple, traditional recipes. I enjoy the hunt but it makes me feel out of sync with the seasonal imperative to keep it simple and use what’s at hand. I wasn’t going to pass up an ingredient that covers both.
I started looking for recipes, beginning with Estrella, who runs the stand. She swore that the thick leaves and stems cook down as easily as spinach, chard, or collared greens so I made it few times during the week as a sautée .- first with fish then as a filling for omelettes. What struck me most was how complete it was on its own. The citrus and pepper flavors are so pronounced that it barely needs dressing or seasoning. The following weekend, I picked up some more with the plan to pair it with pork stew, finding a version I liked from Marilyn Tausend. Using a technique I learned form a very good friends mother, I browned the spareribs in the pressure cooker then added the sofrito and enough liquid to cook it under pressure until it was falling off the bones. It accelerated the process without sacrificing flavor – a good alternative when you’re trying taking advantage of every second.
Verdolagas con Costillas de Puerco/Purslane with Spareribs Stew
Adapted from Cocina de la Familia: mas de 200 recetas auténticas by Marilyn Tausend with Miguel Ravego.
2½ pounds pork spareribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
¼ cup canola or grapeseed oil, plus more as needed
1 small white onion, diced
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound purslane, rinsed well and ends trimmed
Heat the oil in a 6-quart pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, brown the spareribs on all sides until the fat is rendered and the pieces are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not overcrowd the pan and replenish the oil as needed. Set aside the browned pieces.
Carefully discard the oil and wipe the pot clean. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, garlic, salt and sautée until the onion is soft and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano, and cumin and cook until fragrant, an additional 2 minutes. Return the browned spareribs to the pot. Add just enough water or chicken stock so the spare ribs are largely submerged, ½ to 1 cup.
Close and seal the pressure cooker and cook over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Put the pressure cooker under cold running water. Do not remove the lid until the pressure comes down completely per manufacturer’s instructions. Place the pot uncovered over medium heat and return to a simmer
Roughly chop the purslane and add to the pot. Continue to simmer until the purslane is wilted and tender, an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Serve with white rice and warm corn tortillas.