Fresh young mounds of sorrel and rhubarb beckon from the backyard, all dewy and green. While winter veggies are on the wane, they are garden sirens. For god’s sake, we’re at our prime, have your way with us!
Rhubarb’s easy. I grew up loving its sauce and pie, and there was a brief moment in time when I could actually crawl beneath its large wrinkly leaves and hide. Just me and the bugs. While we claim its stalks for weeks on end and do absolutely nothing to enhance its health, for some reason our 20+ year-old rhubarb plant is magnificent every year. We worship that plant for its culinary value and maybe that’s enough, our emotional support.
Sorrel in salad with a dressing that suits it perfectly, and a sauce that’s excellent with salmon are my go-to sorrel recipes. I add it to soup willy-nilly, but sometimes slow down and make a lovely Green Goddess Soup with it. The creamy chive salad dressing created by Gourmet specifically for sorrel is delicious. Recipe below.
Both distinctive and beautiful in the garden, the leaves of rhubarb and sorrel are unique in form but they have oxalic acid in common. Oxalic acid can be a healthy tonic to a point and is found in many greens, but the leaves of rhubarb contain enough to be seriously toxic. Don’t eat them! Their ruby red stalks are a different story. And the leaves of sorrel can definitely be eaten, though you wouldn’t want to eat bowls of it on a daily basis.
Rhubarb crisp – family favorite – will be on the table tonight along with a salad of sorrel and spring greens. Both rhubarb and sorrel have other worthy incarnations, some of which have been posted here in years past. Rhubarb Recipe Reunion, Rhubarb Crisp, Green Goddess Soup, So-Sorrely, Rhubarb Cocktails Rule.
Here are two recipes from the archives of Gourmet, Rhubarb Rosemary *Jelly that’s a delicious alternative to mint jelly for accompanying meat or with soft cheese and crackers; and a creamy chive salad dressing especially for sorrel. Seasonal ingredients for both are currently available in backyard veggie gardens and farmer’s markets.
Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly Recipe
MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS
Equipment: 3 or 4 sterilized ½ pint jars, lids and seals. Or, store jelly in unsealed jars and consume within a couple of weeks.
Ingredients: 1 pound (3 C) trimmed rhubarb/ 1 ¾ C water/ 3 ¼ C sugar ( I used 2 ½ C)/ 1/3 C white-wine vinegar/ 3 T chopped fresh rosemary/ 2, ¼ ounce envelopes of unflavored gelatin.
*Note: With all due respect to Gourmet, now that I’ve made this and tried an alternative, I would recommend omitting the gelatin altogether. The end product is more like a soft jam or jelly and less like jello. More appealing in my opinion.
Made w/o gelatin.
So, you could proceed without the gelatin: follow directions below, but after rhubarb mixture has simmered strain it through the sieve without having added gelatin, and then simmer that strained liquid for another few minutes, until it’s reduced by about half. Instead of discarding the cooked rhubarb, combine it with some of the thickened syrup. *There will probably be extra syrup. Transformed from a jelly to more of a chutney, it’s delicious and not at all like jello. I’m just saying. Pour it into a jar or two, refrigerate, and consume within three weeks. Perfect with meat, cheese, and all by itself for dessert.
Or, proceed the Gourmet way and use the gelatin.
Directions: Cut rhubarb crosswise into ½ in slices to measure 3 cups/ Place cut rhubarb, sugar, vinegar and rosemary in a saucepan, bring to a boil uncovered and simmer 15 minutes/ In the meantime, sprinkle gelatin over ¼ C water and let soften/ Prepare a large bowl with sieve for straining cooked sauce/ Place jars, lids and seals in a pan of simmering water and sterilize until jelly is ready.
When rhubarb has cooked and softened, remove from heat, add the gelatin mix, stir in and then pour the mixture through a fine sieve into large bowl/ Press on solids to extract every little bit of juice, skim off any foam that accumulates in the bowl/ While still piping hot, pour rhubarb jelly into containers, wipe rims with a clean, damp cloth, place seal and lid on each and tighten/ These should seal and will keep in the fridge for 2 months, unsealed 2 – 3 weeks/ Either way, they should be kept chilled, but serve at room temperature.
Gourmet, April 1999 Made w/gelatin.
*The other benefit to making the rhubarb rosemary compote instead of jelly is that there is extra syrup, which, when mixed with tonic and a little gin, or not, is an irresistible pink drink.
Creamy Chive Salad Dressing Recipe
Combine 6 – 8 cups of fresh salad greens of any kind, including 3 or 4 cups of sorrel. Enough for 2 large or 4 smaller servings.
Ingredients: 1/4 C whole-milk yogurt/ 1 T olive oil, lemon juice, minced shallot, finely chopped chives/ 1 t sugar, 1/2 t Dijon mustard, 1/4 t salt/ Combine and whisk together. I mix the dressing right in the salad bowl and then add greens and toss just before serving.
Directions: Combine a bowl full of salad greens and sorrel torn into bite-sized pieces, a healthy handful of parsley and 2 tablespoons of fresh tarragon coarsely chopped. Mix thoroughly, toss with all or some of the dressing according to taste. Serve immediately with plenty of freshly ground pepper.
While crinkly rhubarb leaves are in full glory, there are pear, apple and cherry blossoms, lilacs ready to burst forth. Hello Spring!