7.07.2011

The Local Food Report: sorrel

Have you ever tried sorrel? I hadn't until recently. It's different than most greens—for starters, it's a perennial herb. Unlike spinach or Swiss chard, it comes back every year, and it produces tangy, thick leaves all season long.


According to my friend Lucas, who sells greens at the farmers market in Orleans, sorrel is popular in places like Europe and New Zealand and France. He thinks it's just starting to catch on in the states. It's not for everyone—it tastes pretty sour—but I think it's sort of refreshing in small quantities. Darina Allen, who wrote Forgotten Skills of Cooking, describes it as a sudden little electric shock in a salad. That pretty much captures it perfectly.

When it's cooked down, sorrel is good with cream. Pretty much every recipe I've found for either sorrel soup or a wilted sorrel fish sauce uses some sort of dairy, whether it's butter or whole milk yogurt or heavy cream. The best soup recipe, I think, comes from Julia Child—sorrel, after all, is a French thing. She calls it Potage Germiny.

Raw, I like it in salads. You can throw it into any old salad for a little kick and zing, but it's especially good paired with roasted beets. They're so sweet and the sorrel's so sour that they mesh perfectly.

Lucas says 2011 is going to be the year of sorrel, so sometime, if you have a chance, join in. The greens will be around all season long—from now through late fall—so there's plenty of time to experiment.

CREAM OF SORREL SOUP

This is Julia's recipe, just adapted a bit for simplicity. It makes six servings.

1/3 cup minced green or yellow onions
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 to 4 cups packed fresh sorrel leaves, washed, dried, and cut into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour
5 and 1/2 cups boiling chicken stock
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Warm up 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 5-10 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Stir in all but a handful of the sorrel and the salt, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to low. Cook until the leaves are tender and wilted, about 5 minutes.

Now turn the heat back up to medium and sprinkle in the flour. Cook for three minutes, then pour in the boiling stock, stirring well. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the yolks and cream in a large mixing bowl. Slowly, drop by drop, beat in a cupful of hot soup. Gradually beat in the rest, pouring it in a thin stream as you beat. Return the soup to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Do not bring the soup to a simmer—you just want to cook the eggs. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter.

For hot soup, serve immediately, garnished with the remaining sorrel leaves. For cold soup, leave out the final tablespoon of butter and chill before serving.

SORREL & ROASTED BEET SALAD

Sorrel pairs well with beets because the green offers plenty of sour to the beets' sweet. I love the zing of sorrel in a salad—all citrusy and tang. This salad makes enough to serve 4.

2 slices thick, rustic bread
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for toasting the bread
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly cracked pepper
3 cups young sorrel leaves, washed and dried
2 pounds beets, roasted, peeled, and sliced (for a roasting tutorial, click here)
8 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup toasted pistachios or pecans

Warm up a cast iron griddle over medium-high heat. Place the bread in the middle, and drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top. Toast for 2-3 minutes per side, or until the bread is sizzling and golden. Remove the bread from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before cutting it into 1/2-inch cubes.

Whisk together the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a fork, and add salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the sorrel in a large salad bowl and layer the roasted beets, bread cubes, goat cheese, and toasted nuts on top. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar mixture and serve at once.

12 comments :

Dar said...

I bought some sorrel from him a couple of weeks ago. What my grandma used to do is cook it like spinach and then blend it until smooth with a little salt, sugar (for balance) and water. It makes a super sour sauce that goes really good on meat. Actually I like it so much I just eat the sauce.. :)

The Table of Promise said...

Beautiful! I have been meaning to try Sorrel. Thanks for posting!

Tara said...

Sorrel is a favorite of ours. I planted it two years ago in hot, HOT Texas, and it has withstood extreme heat, drought, flooding, freezing, high wind, hail, transplanting and neglect. It's the only thing we can count on being able to eat all year. Our favorite uses for it are in risotto and in tabouleh (half and half with the parsley). Yum!

Jess said...

I have yet to try sorrel but hope to soon. Also, I will be on the cape this weekend... any suggestions for restaurants that feature local foods? Thanks!

Elspeth said...

Dar, that sounds good! and Tara, that sounds like sorrel. So far as I can tell it is very, very hardy.

And Jess, yes! lots. The restaurant where I work, Blackfish in Truro, does a lot with local veggies, meats, & seafood. My husband's restaurant, Mac's Shack, has a TON of local seafood, and Sol and The Juice in Wellfleet also do some nice local dishes. Happy vacation!

All the best,
Elspeth

Againstthegrain said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I just ordered it.

On another note, have you seen Hank Shaw's new book, 'Hunt. Gather. Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast'?

Elspeth said...

againstthegrain,

enjoy! such a good book. we got it for christmas and i've been totally immersed.

i've heard of hank, but never seen the book. it must have just come out, no?

best,
elspeth

Anna said...

Yup, Hunt. Gather. Cook is new. Very good, too, IMO. Hank Shaw has a blog, too, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook at http://honest-food.net/. Plus he's a frequent contributor to the Simply Recipes blog.

caroline said...

I made this soup last night with sorrel I bought from the West Tisbury farmer's market (MV) on Sat. Delicious! I have another bunch so will make the beet recipe this week. Thank you!

caroline said...

I made the sorrel beet salad with pecans last night. It was phenomenal. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. It's a keeper for summers to come.

Christine said...

This is our first year trying to grow sorrel. I'm really looking forward to trying these recipes, once the plants get established. The grasshoppers are taking their fill for now.

En's world said...

Sorrel is a staple in many Eastern Europen homes. I was fortunate to find a small sorrel plant at HEB garden shop (yes HEB!!) and my goodness, three years later it is still growing and it is able to withstand any temps in Texas! Go online for Ukrainian dishes to make Sorrel soups. My mother in law makes it for me and its become my comfort food! However, for those who have kidney stone problems should NOT eat sorrel as it can aggravate symptoms.

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