For the longest time sorrel has seemed mysterious, somehow beyond my palatal reach. So very French, I thought. True, it is tangy, but not at all stuffy. I’ve had a bunch growing in the backyard for a few years now, and without any interference or effort on my part it miraculously reappears each spring. So, we’ve become acquainted. I recognize that it’s more than the character of sorrel that I appreciate, but the satisfaction of having such flavor and variety available nearby in a garden or a pot. From plot to plate, this is another good one to plant in the garden and then almost forget about until you’re ready for something tangy in salad, sauce or soup. Find it at weekend Farmers Markets, it’s in season, available and beckoning.
Seattle Tilth Garden Hotline. Any questions about gardening, call and you’ll reach a real person. Extremely helpful local resource.
Though it looks saladish, sorrel is an herb and as a flavoring, stupendous. Often cultivated as a leafy vegetable, sorrel is an early spring perennial herb, high in Vitamins A and C. Its tart, lemony flavor comes from oxalic acid as in the leaves of rhubarb, but in sorrel is safe to eat, though its use is *conditional for people with rheumatism, kidney or bladder stones.
Sorrel is a piquant addition to salad: remove stems, chop finely and toss with salad greens; then make a green goddess-style dressing to go with it.
Salad Dressing: Mix the following ingredients together in a blender or food processor and that’s it: 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 or 3 anchovy filets, ¾ cup chopped sorrel leaves, some fresh chives and parsley, oregano, marjoram if you have them, a scallion or young spring garlic chopped, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar. After blending, if the dressing is too thick add a little water or milk. This is superb in combination with salad greens, cabbage or avocado, as a dip with fresh vegetables, spread on a chicken or fish sandwich, a fish taco. (Inspired by Gourmet’s version, March 2002.)
Good stuff, and it’s green.
This sauce, with the addition of sorrel, is delicious with almost any kind of fish; it can also be tossed with pasta and a little Dungeness crab, or drizzled over a crab cake. And, according to Jerry Traunfeld in his Herbfarm cookbook, it’s a tangy counterpoint to the cheese when poured into the center of a cheese soufflé. One point: as with many greens, sorrel loses its bright green color when cooked. This can’t be avoided so save a few finely chopped leaves as a garnish to use before serving.
Sorrel Sauce, inspired by and adapted from Jerry Traunfeld’s recipe in The Herbfarm Cookbook: 4 tablespoons butter, 1 shallot or spring garlic finely chopped, ¾ cup white wine, ¾ cup chopped sorrel. Melt 2 T butter in a saucepan with the shallot or garlic, sauté’ together briefly; add wine and simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup, about ten minutes. Add salt to taste and whisk in remaining butter one tablespoon at a time. Pour this warm mixture into the blender along with the sorrel and blend. If sauce seems too thick add a little warm water. Traumfeld suggests that you can add almost any herb you like to the butter/wine base in this sauce.
Pour it over a grilled piece of fish or a crab cake, into the middle of a cheese soufflé if you dare.
A variation: reduce ¾ cup cream to ½ cup and mix with ½ cup sorrel and butter sauce. This is enough for two servings so if you need more, double/triple the sauce recipe. Toss this mixture with pasta, maybe a bit of cheese and any leftover fish of your choice. For dinner last night this sauce with whole-wheat pasta and the tiniest bit of fresh crab was an innovation that worked. Clean plates.
In soup: Add a big bunch, a cup, of chopped sorrel to a classic leek and potato soup along with chopped chard or kale. Blend it until smoothe, add a chiffonade of sorrel before serving and you have a version of classic Vichyssoise. Can’t escape the French influence with this stuff.
From Wikipedia: *Sorrel has high levels of vitamins A and C. It also has moderate levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Because of the oxalic acid in sorrel, it is not good for everyone. Oxalic acid may aggravate the conditions of people with rheumatism, kidneyor bladder stones. If you love sorrel when you first try it, learn to love it in small doses in the beginning. It has natural laxativeproperties that make consuming too much sorrel a trial for the tummy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorrel