Archive for July, 2010

Salsa Wars July 31 in Denver

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
Salsa Wars - Denver Public Library

Image courtesy DPL

Writing a food blog has its perks. No, I’m not living the big life off the ads on my site nor have I signed a lucrative book deal (yet). But, I occasionally get to participate in some pretty cool events. In May, I attended Camp Blogaway, a food bloggers conference in southern California and this weekend I’m one of the judges at Salsa Wars.

Because you know how much I like to cook and eat (or maybe that should be vice versa), you should assume the “salsa” is a reference to the condiment kind versus the dancing kind. Although, I’m told there will also be some salsa music from DJ Manolo and salsa dancing by the Fafa Dance Conclave.

I’ll be judging salsa recipes for Denver Public Library’s Fresh City Life events. Salsa Wars is an event scheduled in conjunction with the Biennial of the Americas here in Denver and DPL’s Street Food series in July, which highlighted food from Peru, Brazil and Mexico.

If you’re thinking about bringing your abuela’s secret salsa, sorry submissions are closed. On Saturday, judges and the public will be tasting the top six recipe submissions. Here are the details:

Salsa Wars – Saturday, July 31 @ 12:30 pm

Denver Public Library Central Location , Acoma Plaza (between the library & the Denver Art Museum)

10 W. Fourteenth Ave. Pkwy., Denver, CO 80204

Also fyi, if you want to attend a free Mexican food cooking demonstration, come down at 10:30 am to see Chef Shellie Kark make a cup o’ corn with lime, sour cream and smoky chipotle followed by memelitas with caramelized onions, black beans and queso fresco. (Memelitas are like sopes.)

For my Denver-area followers, here’s my plug to encourage you to check out our public library:  DPL is awesome and has been rated as one of the top 10 libraries in the country by a few sources (including me). In addition to great programming, they have an amazing collection of books and reference materials, independent movies and music. And, those reference librarians help me find the quirkiest of facts for this blog.

Purslane: Egg Purslane Tacos – Tacos de Verdolagas y Huevos

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Tacos de verdolaga purslane egg -

I’m excited you’re excited for purslane. I feel like I’m on a marketing campaign for the succulent this summer.

I confess, however, the inspiration for featuring this ingredient came from my hubby. He’s been making green smoothies this summer (adding raw kale, spinach, collards and other greens into his berry smoothies for extra nutrients). One day he asked about “purslane” and I reminded him that he’s eaten it in tacos de verdolagas.

In most Mexican cookbooks, verdolagas/purslane are mentioned in recipes with pork. But, they are also frequently eaten scrambled with eggs. That’s how I remember eating them growing up. When I told my brothers and sisters that I was writing about verdolagas – they waxed nostalgically for those tacos with verdolagas, sautéed onions, chile and scrambled eggs.

For those new to purslane, the cooked version tastes like spinach and loses its tanginess. It’s a nice earthy compliment to eggs.

When you prepare the raw purslane, make sure to use the florets and use only the tender part of the stem. The whole stem is edible, but I find the really thick stems chewy. Substitute purslane in those recipes where you’d usually have sautéed greens like spinach.

This morning we had tacos de verdolagas with a little queso fresco and salsa. They are great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack.

If any of you are already purslane fans, what’s your favorite way to eat it?

Tidbits on Purslane:

  1. Purslane is loaded with vitamins and minerals but for anyone watching their nitrate intake – as in spinach, don’t over do it.
  2. Its name in Malawi (a southeast African country) translates as “buttocks of the chief’s wife,” referring to the plants rounded leaves and juicy stems.


Purslane: Raw Purslane Weed Salad

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Purslane Verdolaga Weed -

Call it a weed if you want. Purslane is still good eating.

Every summer growing up, my family planted a backyard garden with tomatoes, calabacitas (zucchini), chiles, cilantro, onions and a few other standards found in most Mexican family gardens. Yet, part of the bounty we enjoyed was something we didn’t plant . . .  weeds.

We would chow down on verdolagas. You might know the weed as “purslane.”

Purslane is a long, red-stemmed succulent with fleshy oval flowers.  It grows all over the world and is eaten in many cultures – in Egypt and Sudan it is used as a medicine and as a vegetable, in France it is served with fish, in Holland it is used in winter salads, and in Mexico, it is frequently eaten with pork.

Despite this, it has a bad rap with most gardeners, who consider it an invasive weed.

Purslane is also known by some unattractive names like pigweed, Little Hogweed and pussley. Not too enticing, eh? After reading this post and its nutritional value (see Tidbits below), I hope you’ll be persuaded to try the little succulent. Know that some folks consider it a superfood.

Purslane has a mild flavor and is slightly lemony. It reminds me of nopales (cactus), without as much mucilage.

This summer as purslane grows in my garden and in the cracks of my sidewalk, I’ve allowed some areas to grow. I prefer to pick it when the stems are about 5 inches in length – the longer the stems, the tangier. On the occasions when it is longer, I discard the thick stems or at least make sure they are cut into small bite size pieces.

The recipe below is for a quick, raw salad I’ve been making this summer. It’s been a hit at several potlucks including my community garden workday. Fellow gardeners were thrilled to find a use for the “edible weed” pervading their gardens.

Hip me up to your favorite uses for purslane.

Tidbits on Purslane:

  1. Purslane has been a go to food during hot weather since before Christ. It is believed to sooth the head and cool the body.
  2. Pigs, apparently, go mad for purslane. I suspect the reason for calling it “pigweed.”
  3. Nutrition:  it’s one of the best vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids and some suggest it should be considered a super food. “It is a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folate, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.”

Source:  Hints & Pinches by Eugene Walter, a mini-reference book about herbs and spices;


Parsley: Deviled Eggs with Italian Salsa Verde

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Deviled Eggs Italian Salsa

Until last week I was not a deviled egg fan.

I admit to frowning when someone showed up to a party with a plate of ho hum deviled eggs – you know the ones – mashed yolks flavored with too much mayonnaise. Pretty BLAH.

Call me a food snob, but to me, it’s just a notch above bringing cheap hotdogs. (Fear not, I’m gracious and appreciate the thought.)

My attitude changed last week when I made these deviled eggs with Italian salsa verde.

As you know from my last post, Italian green sauce is a fresh herb condiment traditionally paired with boiled eggs – either as an ingredient in the sauce or as a topping for eggs. Thinking about the two, I was inspired to replace the mayo in deviled eggs. The result – deviled eggs that would be a welcome appetizer at a party or summer barbecue.

I was not planning to write this post, but these deviled eggs are so good I had to share. The texture and assertive flavors of the Italian salsa verde make these eggs stand out.


If you have a particular use for Italian salsa verde, please share. Or, tell us about your favorite deviled eggs.

Tidbits on Deviled Eggs:

  1. Spicy stuffed eggs date back as far as 13th century Andalusia. In a 15th century Italian text, stuffed eggs included raisins, cheese, parsley, marjoram and mint.
  2. In the 18th century, the name “deviled eggs” was termed. “Deviled” is used to connote spicy or fiery, reflecting the seasonings used to flavor. The first recipe for deviled eggs dates back to circa 1786.



Parsley: Italian Salsa Verde with Anchovies and Capers

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Italian Salsa Verde Parsley

Several things stand out in my memory of the semester I lived in Florence . . .  I remember narrow cobblestone streets. The tranquility of brisk, autumn mornings near the Arno and The Ponte Vecchio, and the quiet occasionally interrupted by buzzing vespas.

I also remember my delight when tasting new Tuscan foods such as Italian salsa verde, green sauce.

In Italy and especially the Tuscan region, Italian salsa verde is paired with steamed vegetables and more traditionally with bollito misto, mixed boiled meats. Made from fresh parsley, anchovies and capers, it certainly awakens the tastebuds.

Salsa verde is a green sauce similar to pesto but uses parsley as the main ingredient. After making it more recently, I would also have to liken it to a fresh herbed version of chimichurri. After all, Italians migrated to Argentina in huge droves in the late 1800s, and the culinary influence is obvious.

As I researched this sauce further, I also found it referenced as “salsa rustica” in the Chianti area.

Most salsa verde recipes include parsley, anchovies, capers, onions, garlic and olive oil. Some also include adding vinegar soaked white bread and/or chopped hard boiled eggs. The addition of either of the latter makes the sauce more substantial and gives it some bulk.

My recipe includes eggs as an optional ingredient.  I make it with and without depending on my mood. My prefernce is still to use the sauce to top boiled eggs rather than include the eggs in the sauce.

Use this green parsley sauce on boiled eggs, steamed green beans, boiled chunks of potatoes, cold meat and as a condiment with canned tuna or to substitute for mayo in deviled eggs. If you don’t care for anchovies, leave them out, it’s still delicious.

Tidbits on Parsley:

  1. Flat leaf or Italian parsley is preferred for many culinary dishes. It has a slightly stronger flavor than curly parsley and holds up better while cooking. If you are making in a white sauce, use the stems rather than the leaves, so that color does not bleed.
  2. According to some alternative medicine remedies, parsley has many healing properties. It can be used in poultices to soothe tired, irritated eyes and also to help heal bruises. The juice can also be used as a natural mosquito repellent and to help relieve the itch and sting of insect bites. Note, however, some people can have allergic side effects.

Sources: The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, The Essential Herb Garden


Parsley: Chimichurri – Argentinean Herb Sauce

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Chimichurri_Parsley Sauce Argentina -

For people who enjoy cooking or eating, the Fourth of July is as much a holiday related to grilling as it is to fireworks.

Whether you’re throwing down on grilled beef, chicken, fish or tofu this weekend, one sauce you should serve your guests is chimichurri.  It’s easy to make and will earn you some culinary cred.

Chimichurri is a parsley-based sauce originating out of Argentina. There it accompanies grilled meats, chorizo and empanadas. There are countless ways to make chimichurri – ranging from a fresh-herbed bright green sauce (like my version below) to one that is red hued and calls for dried herbs and cooking.

Regardless, essentials for this sauce include parsley, oregano, vinegar, and olive oil. From there, it’s cook’s choice.

To impress your guests further, here are some food history facts:

The origin of chimichurri is a bit sketchy. Credit is given to los gauchos, the cowboys of Argentina’s pampas plains area, famously known for grilling meats and sausages over an open wood fire. Their marinade and salsa of choice was chimichurri, which was likely made of dried parsley and oregano.

Some food etymology also points to non-Argentines as the source:  an Englishman Jimmy Curry, a meat importer who traveled with gauchos in the mid 1800s and an Irishman Jimmy McCurry, who marched with troops for Argentina’s independence in the 19th century. Under either, the locals had difficulty pronouncing their last names and “chimichurri” resulted.

Others, like Argentinean gourmet Miguel Brasco, say the name dates back to when England tried to invade the Spanish colony of Argentina. Allegedly, British prisoners asked for condiment for their food, mixing English, Aboriginal, and Castilian Spanish words – “che-mi-curry” in English meaning “give me curry,” later changed to chimichurri. Another recent theory to surface is by barbecue expert Steven Raichlen, who links it to the Basque word “tximitxurri.” The Basque settled in Argentina in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Despite the intellectual exercise above, know that this sauce will be a hit.

Chimichurri, especially this fresh-herbed version, is perfect for your grilled food. The fresh herbs, vinegar and lemon juice balance the grease in grilled meat. You can also use it as a salad dressing, marinade, or as my husband enjoys – on corn on the cob.

Let me know how you use chimichurri.

Tidbits on Parsley

  1. Use parsley within a few days of picking or purchasing – before the leaves begin to shrivel or turn a yellowish hue.  After washing thoroughly, store in a glass in the refrigerator. If you want to freeze it for later use, dry thoroughly, chop and freeze.
  2. Parsley is poisonous to most birds but of high nutritional value to humans – rich in vitamin C (three times as much as oranges); it has compounds that clear toxins from the body, which reduce inflammation; it also contains histamine; and contains a compound within called apiol that is valuable for treating kidney ailments.

Sources: Hints & Pinches by Eugene Walter; Encyclopedia of Spices at