French Sorrel or “Lemonade in a Leaf”
When a farmer became thirsty during spring planting, he would reach down, pluck up some wild sorrel, and eat it. The sour-citrusy taste has been prized throughout the world for thousands of years as a wake-up call for taste buds dulled by bland winter foods. French sorrel is considered by many chefs to be the benchmark variety and is an indispensable green in French cooking.
Sorrel is a very ancient herb, the name comes from the Teutonic word for “sour”. In the days before refrigeration, sorrel was often the first fresh food that people ate each spring. In Europe it was (and still is) a popular ingredient in spring tonics, taken to prevent scurvy as fresh sorrel leaves are a good source of Vitamin C. Ancient Greeks and Romans used the herb for promoting digestion and considered it a good complement to rich, fatty meals. Spring sorrel blends perfectly with other spring herbs such as dill, chives and watercress, and complements such spring foods as new potatoes, salmon, soft-shelled crab, peas, strawberries and spinach.
Here are two recipes that showcase sorrel’s flavors in completely different ways.
Spring Greens Risotto
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ c chopped green onions
- 1 ½ c Arborio rice
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 c hot chicken or vegetable broth, divided
- 4 c coarsely chopped spring greens (spinach, Swiss chard and sorrel)
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg (optional)
- ½ c grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes, then add rice and salt. Cook, stirring continuously until rice begins to color.
- Add ½ c broth and stir until most of broth is absorbed. Then add 1 1/2c broth, lower heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until mostly absorbed- about 10 minutes. Add optional nutmeg and remaining broth. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place greens on top of rice. Cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in greens. Simmer and stir a few minutes more until broth is absorbed and rice is tender but moist.
- Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings
Crispy Potatoes with Fresh Sorrel
- 1lb small new potatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp minced fresh sorrel
- Blanching the potatoes beforehand helps them brown and get crisp in very little oil.
- Slice the potatoes thin. Steam over boiling water, covered, until barely tender- about 5 minutes.
- Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil so that the bottom of the pan is well coated.
- Pat the potatoes dry and layer them evenly in the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and let the potatoes sizzle, without stirring, until browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Just before you remove the potatoes from the heat, sprinkle on the sorrel and stir to mix. Serve warm.
Makes 4 servings
Please let us know your thoughts on these recipes, or if you have a favorite use for sorrel.
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