CREMA DE VERDOLAGAS
By BILL DUNCAN
I love soup.
Often, I have soup for breakfast.
I seek out new recipes for soup and put them in a homemade cookbook, I call "The Soup is On" a collection of soup recipes from here and there. I am also a gardener, growing many of the ingredients I use in my soups.
My Oregon black mud soil just happens to grow a plant most farmers curse as a weed, but the French and the Spanish know the plant has more nutrients in it than most pampered plants grown as vegetables. The French and most of Europe and Asia call it Purslane. The Spanish, especially my Mexican neighbors to the South called it Verdolaga. It is a succulent and grows low to the ground and without any special attention. It is one of my favorite summer vegetables, with a mild, sweet-sour flavor and a chewy texture. Its reddish stem is nearly as thick as a computer cable. I use only the tender leaves.
Its Horticultural name is Portulaca oleracea. It can be eaten fresh as in salads or cooked in a variety of ways. It has no bitter taste.
In my garden it grows as a common weed, of course encouraged by me. My yard boy once chopped it all up with a hoe and got scolded by his Master Gardener employer. No harm, though, as I just scooped up the choppings, washed them thoroughly and made enough soup to freeze and have through the cold, rainy winter months in Oregon.
Those days are always good soup days.
This is my favorite recipe for Verdolaga sopa:
CREMA DE VERDOLAGAS
1 Tbls. butter.
2 Tbls. olive oil.
1/2 cup chopped scallions.
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced.
1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced.
2 pounds Verdolagas, larger stems removed.
6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken).
1 cup light cream.
Salt and pepper, to taste.
1 cup grated Jack cheese (or any mild melting cheese).
In a medium-size saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the scallions, garlic and chile and cook for 3 minutes. Add the Verdolagas and the stock and cook until the Verdolagas are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool a bit and then purée in the blender. Return to the stove over a low heat and whisk in the cream. Heat thoroughly. Divide the cheese among 6 soup bowls and pour the hot soup over. Makes 6 servings.
I make my own stock and generally use chicken, but vegetable stock works just as well. I use Jack cheese, sometimes I use pepper Jack, but believe me the soup is nippy as it is. You can use other kinds of chiles. I grow Anaheim chiles and use mostly Anaheims in my soup.
Where can you find Verdolagas? Try Mexican markets, or markets that have French cooking patrons, but there ask for Purslane, not Verdolagas. It is the same thing.
(Bill Duncan is a syndicated newspaper columnist living on acreage in Roseburg, Oregon. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)