My sons and I took a jaunt into New York City yesterday for a screening of the film “Farmageddon“. We met up with my husband, G, for dinner at Lupa Osteria Romana that same evening. Lupa, one of chef Mario Batali’s endeavors, is one of my favorite restaurants in New York. I have eaten there a few times and have never been disappointed. It is a restaurant that strives to create dishes as close to traditional Roman trattoria fare as possible. Having lived, studied and worked in Italy (as well as meeting my husband there) Italian food is near and dear to my heart. Eating paleo has meant pasta consumption is essentially a thing of the past. However, my meal at Lupa last night illustrated how possible it is to eat great Italian food without the pasta.
At Lupa they make it a point to use local ingredients as often as possible in part to support local producers. This fit in well with the movie we had just seen that delved into the difficulties faced by small, local farmers. So I was especially appreciative of the efforts of the team at Lupa for utilizing Heritage Foods USA as a supplier. Heritage Foods USA produces high-quality, humanely raised meat products grown by small and medium sized independent farmers. Their motto is,
“We will continue to build on our milestone triumphs in reviving heritage breeds, increasing awareness of the food supply in the consumer mainstream, and offering farmers a chance to work their farms in a way that best serves the land, the animals, the consumer, and themselves.”
Wednesday’s special happened to be “Braised Rabbit Leg”. I had spent the morning gardening and chasing a couple of bunnies away from my veggies so the irony of eating rabbit for dinner was not lost on me and I proceeded to order the dish with gusto! The side dish that accompanied the rabbit was purslane and not being familiar with that ingredient I asked the waiter for a description. He explained that purslane is a type of wild green and left it at that. When my food arrived I immediately recognized it as the exact same weed that my son and I had been diligently pulling out of our driveway most of the morning! Here I was at a fantastic restaurant in Manhattan paying top dollar for a dish of locally produced rabbit and weeds – both of which I had encountered under completely different circumstances earlier in the day.
The purslane was actually quite delicious and I was inspired to do a little research to find out more about it. It turns out this wonderful green leafy vegetable (scientifically known as portulaca oleracea) is very low in calories and fats; but is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Purslane leaves contain more Omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provides about 350 mg of α-linolenic acid. Research studies shows that consumption of foods rich in ω-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and also help prevent development of ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in children. Purslane is also an excellent source of Vitamin A, (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA) one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. It is also a rich source of vitamin C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese. Also present in purslane are potent anti-oxidants which have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies. This “weed” clearly packs a nutritional punch.
Given that the dish was terrific and the purslane was one of the reasons for that fact I determined I would cultivate purslane more formally in my garden from now on. The next day I went out to my driveway and pulled up some of the remaining plants.
It turns out the the leaves of purslane are the most nutritious but the braised rabbit dish at Lupa included the stems which I found to be quite tasty and succulent. I recommend if you find it in your yard or garden that you let it thrive and harvest some of it for additions to salads or soups just prior to serving. If you are going to keep it in the refrigerator you should probably wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in a ziplock bag to retain moisture and freshness until you use it. Once the purslane that I transplanted has time to grow I will experiment with a few recipes and post one or more here on the blog – assuming they are delicious. :-) If I am ever successful in capturing one of the rabbits that stalks my vegetable garden I might also attempt to replicate the braised rabbit leg I enjoyed at Lupa. Otherwise, I will simply have to go back to the City for more of this “haute” cuisine.
For more information on how to identify purslane you can check out http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Purslane.html
Happy hunting and gathering!