This recipe is my interpretation of a purslane salad that I tried once at a restaurant in the city of Puebla called El Mural Poblano. I was very surprised to see this on the menu, because while purslane is a very common leafy green in Mexico, it is almost never eaten raw or in salads for that matter. The salad used just the leaves of the purslane and had crumbled queso cotija, pecans, tomatoes, onions and a light avocado dressing. After trying it I decided that I would have to replicate the salad once I arrived back to Mexico City.
My version of the recipe is very similar to what I tried in Puebla, however I have made some changes. I have added a little bit of pápalo, a pungent leafy green herb, that is frequently used in central Mexico. It has a very strong flavor and is usually eaten with tacos or prepared in salsas o guacamoles. Due to it’s pungency many people find the taste to be too intense or at the very least it takes time to get used it the flavor of this aromatic herb. If you don’t like the flavor of pápalo you do not have to use it in the recipe.
As I mentioned earlier, when I tried this dish in Puebla it had queso cotija, one of the few Mexican cheeses that has a relatively strong flavor. For this reason I don’t use it in my recipe because it’s too intense with the pápalo and instead have used a variety of tamer fresh cheeses such as queso fresco, ranchero or panela.
Finding Ingredients and Replacements:
Purslane is generally considered a weed in the U.S. and therefore not used frequently in cooking. They are easily found in Mexican grocery stores, however I would ask for it using the Spanish word, verdolagas, as I don’t think it’s widely known as purslane. If you don’t have any Mexican grocery stores nearby or can’t find purslane you could replace it with watercress or lambsquarters.
You should be able to find pápalo in Mexico grocery stores along with the cilantro and epazote. However if you are unable to find it, don´t worry – it’s not necessary to make this salad.
Mexican fresh cheeses can also be found in Mexican grocery stores and now in large chain grocery stores. I would recommend feta cheese as a good replacement.
Chopped pápalo, pecans, chopped tomatoes + queso ranchero
- 2 lbs of purlsane (Make sure that they are fresh! If you notice that they look old and have lots of black leaves they will not work for this recipe)
- 3 medium sized tomatoes chopped finely
- ½ of a white onion chopped finely
- 1 cup of pecans
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped pápalo
- 1 cup of crumbled fresh Mexican cheese (i.e. queso ranchero, queso fresco o queso panela)
- 1 ripe, small to medium sized avocado
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- salt to taste
- black pepper
Cut off the roots of the purslane and rinse under water to remove dirt. Disinfect or soak in water for 5 minutes. Remove the leaves and dry, throw away the stems. Toast the pecans in a medium sized pan over medium heat for between 3 to 5 minutes or until they begin to smell. They can burn quickly so watch them carefully, stirring frequently. Let cool, chop into quarters and set aside.
Blend the avocado, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Mix the tomatoes with the pápalo first so that the pápalo is well distributed in the salad. Mix together the tomatoe/papalo mixture with the purslane, nuts, cheese, onions and salad dressing. Check for salt and serve.