Thursday, May 14, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Sorrel

Sorrel is a perennial plant we look forward to every spring and is among the first greens of the season.  It is actually in the same family of vegetables as rhubarb!  Sorrel leaves have a pointy, arrow shape and are thick in texture and bright green in color.  You’ll recognize sorrel by its tart and citrus-like flavor.  It has a bright flavor that will call your taste buds to attention.
Sorrel can be eaten both raw and cooked.  Raw sorrel can brighten any salad and is excellent when blended into cold sauces, vinaigrettes, dressings or dips.  Because of its bold flavor, it is often treated more like an herb when used raw.  When cooked, sorrel behaves in a very interesting way.  First, its color changes from bright green to a drab olive green almost immediately.  Don’t worry, this happens to everyone and it’s just the way it is with sorrel!  The other interesting thing about sorrel is how it “melts” when added to hot liquids.  The leaves will almost immediately change color and then start to soften.  The longer it’s cooked, the more the leaves break apart and you can stir it into a coarse sauce. This is one of the reasons it’s often used in soups and sauces.
The acidity of sorrel makes it a natural companion to more rich foods such as cream, butter, sour cream, yogurt, duck, and fatty fish (salmon & mackerel).  Additionally, it pairs well with more “earthy” foods such as lentils, rice, buckwheat, mushrooms and potatoes.
If you are interested in preserving sorrel to use during the winter, here’s an interesting idea from Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetable Literacy.  She recommends making a sorrel puree to freeze.
“Drop stemmed leaves into a skillet with a little butter and cook until the leaves dissolve into a rough puree, which takes only a few minutes.  Cool, then freeze flat in a ziplock bag….Just a dab will add spirit to the quiet flavors of winter foods:  break off chunks to stir into lentil soups, mushroom sauces or ragouts, or an omelet filling.”

Spiced Lentils with Nettles & Sorrel Yogurt Sauce

Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 3-4 as a side dish
Spiced Lentils
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup ramp bulbs or green onion bulbs, sliced thinly
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup beluga lentils
2 ½ cups water
1 cup blanched, roughly chopped nettle leaves
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup thinly sliced chives or green onion tops

Sorrel Yogurt Sauce
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
¾ cup sorrel leaves, sliced into ribbons
Zest of one lemon
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until the sorrel leaves are well-incorporated.
Let the mixture set for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with additional salt as needed.

Store any extra sauce in the refrigerator.

  1. Heat olive oil in a 10-12 inch sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced ramp or green onion bulbs and sauté until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and black pepper.  Stir to combine the spices with the oil and onions.  Continue to stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. 
  2. Add the lentils and water and stir to combine.  Bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly to maintain a gentle simmer.  Partially cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are just tender.  
  3. Remove the lid from the pan and stir in the nettles and lemon juice.  Continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes.  If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, cook uncovered.  If there is a small amount of liquid remaining, put the lid back on the pan to finish cooking.  You want a small amount of liquid remaining when the dish is done, but it should not be soupy.
  4. Turn off the heat and season with additional salt and black pepper if needed.  Stir in the chives or green onion tops.  Serve warm or at room temperature with 1-2 Tbsp of Sorrel Yogurt Sauce.

Sorrel Hummus

Yield:  1 ½ cups
2 garlic cloves
1 ½ oz sorrel leaves, roughly chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (one-15 oz can)
¼ cup tahini
Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
1 ½ Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt, plus more if desired
1 ½ tsp raw honey or pure maple syrup
¼ cup water
Cold-pressed olive oil, for serving*

  1. Put the garlic in a food processor and pulse to mince.  Add the sorrel, chickpeas, tahini, lemon zest and juice, salt, honey, and ¼ cup water, and blend on the highest setting until smooth.  Season with more salt if needed.  
  2. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl, drizzle olive oil over the top, and serve.  Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

*Note:  If you are using the hummus as a spread, add 1 ½ tsp olive oil to the food processor and blend it into the hummus.

Serving Suggestions:  This sorrel hummus is delicious served with pita bread, corn chips or fresh vegetables as an appetizer or snack.  You can also use it as a spread for sandwiches, flat bread or wraps.  When we tested this recipe, we chose to spread the sorrel hummus on a tortilla and stuffed it with fresh spinach and diced raw asparagus tossed with a little drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.  The hummus is bright and lemony and in Farmer Richard’s words.... “also rich & creamy.  I like the contrast of the crispy asparagus with the creamy hummus.” This spread goes well with any spring vegetable including radishes, green onions, blanched nettles, baby white turnips and more!

Recipe Source: This recipe was borrowed from Sarah Britton’s beautiful new cookbook, My New Roots.  This book was just released this spring and it’s packed full of nourishing plant-based recipes organized by the season.  Sarah also has a blog by the same name, My New Roots (  Her recipes are vegetarian and often vegan friendly, although they are also adaptable to include in meals for meat-eaters as well.  Another bonus of both her book and her blog…..the gorgeous pictures!  

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