Sunday, June 7, 2009

Warm Potato and Purslane Salad

Several years ago there was an issue of Saveur magazine focused entirely on California. One of the articles featured a Chez Panisse reunion picnic. I have fantasies about being at that picnic. In fact, that picnic is the perfect picture of my ultimate food fantasy. It took place in Bolinas in a grassy meadow dotted with trees. There was an old barn near one end, and it was all nestled between coastal hills. There was a long wooden table piled with dishes brought by the various guests. Can you imagine being at a pot luck with Judy Rogers, Alice Waters, Paul Bertolli, David Tanis, Michael Wild, Margaret Grade and Deborah Madison?!

Margaret Grade brought a warm potato and purslane salad. I had never used or tasted purslane before. Not long after I saw that article, I found some purlane at the farmer's market and decided that even though I couldn't be at that picnic, I could still have one of the dishes that was served there. It is essentially a German potato salad with the addition of purslane.

Purslane is often considered a weed, but it is delicious. It is one of the best vegetable sources of omega 3 fatty acids and is high in vitamin C. It is a succulent which gives it a sort of irresistible texture. It is soft but toothsome with a slightly acidic and peppery flavor. It is good raw in salads or sauteed like spinach.

Every time I see purslane, I think of this potato salad and that Chez Panisse reunion picnic. I will probably never go to one of those picnics, but I do have a long wooden table that my friends can sit around to enjoy good food and conversation. I think I'm getting pretty close to realizing that fantasy.

Warm Purslane and Potato Salad
adapted from Margaret Grade

1 lb. sliced pancetta, cut into pieces about 1/2 inch square
3-4 cipolline onions or shallots, peeled and chopped
2 lbs. baby fingerling or Yukon gold potatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. purslane, cleaned

Cook pancetta in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 15-20 minutes. Transfer pancetta with a slotted spoon to paper towels to let drain. Add onions to skillet and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Set pan aside.

Put potatoes and stock into a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender, 10-20 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the stock . Place potatoes aside in a large bowl with the purslane and pancetta. Return reserved stock to pot and boil over high heat until reduced by half, 2-3 minutes.

Return pan with onions and pancetta drippings to stove. Heat over medium heat until hot. Stir in the honey, reduced stock, vinegar, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour hot dressing over potatoes and purslane, toss quickly and serve.

Serves 6-8


  1. I think your long wooden table sounds just as good as the Chez Panisse picnic (if anything can sound as good as a Chez Panisse picnic, geez.)

    I have never tasted purslane but will certainly be scouring my farmer's markets now to find it. It sounds beautiful.

  2. I need to make this. This looks so delicious.

  3. this sounds very yummy!!

    btw: that would be an amazing potluck.

  4. This sounds delicious, but thats alot to do with the way you describe it and set the scene.
    simple and lovely.

  5. Eh, I'd rather hang with you and Louis and Ella than with all those other peeps. Even if they are big food names. People eat damn well at your table, too.

  6. Rebekka, thanks. you should definitely pick some up if you see some. It's always fun to try out new ingredients.

    Arugulove, you really should make this:) And let me know what you think.

    Foodie Hunter, yep, quite yummy:) We should plan a picnic sometime!

    Rachel, yes, sometimes it's more about the feelings and thoughts that food provokes rather than the actual taste of the dish...

    Vic, thanks! I know you're right;)

  7. Thanks for posting something using purslane. It is a weed indeed for mpst people, although one can buy seeds for an improved purslane - with bigger leaves. I have contented to pinch off the last few leaves and through those in my mescun salad. Based on your picture, it looks like I can pick much bigger pieces to eat.
    (and that seems a most delicious salad too! - new potatoes are coming, purslane we've got... no pancetta though, will have to do with bacon...)