Sorrel is one of those vegetables we generally associate with the arrival of springtime. However, this hearty vegetable has a long growing season, and is perfectly at home brightening up the heavier, richer dishes we are starting to prepare this time of year.
Sorrel is a perennial herb of the family Polygonaceae, which includes rhubarb and buckwheat. Taste a tiny bit raw and you will soon discover the tart power of sorrel leaves. Combining sorrel with other greens (such as spinach or arugula) or pairing it with rich, fatty foods (such as heavy cream, meat, fish or cheese) is recommended to tone down its strong flavor. The calcium and casein in dairy products neutralize the oxalic acid, the source of the tartness.
Sorrel contains a lot of Vitamin A, which will lower your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. It also contains Vitamin C, which is great for the immune system. It is high in potassium and magnesium, which can lower your blood pressure and increase blood circulation. Sorrel, especially raw, contains high amounts of folate, an essential vitamin. Folate consumed in food is absorbed better by the body than synthetic supplements. Folate can decrease your chances of getting stomach, colon, pancreatic, cervical and breast cancers.
Sorrel is popular all over the world and can be found in numerous cuisines. Green Borscht is found in Russian, Ukrainian, Ashkenazi Jewish, Belarusian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian and Polish cuisines. Along with sorrel, it usually contains whole eggs, potatoes, carrots and parsley root and is topped with sour cream. In Nigeria, sorrel is used in stews along with spinach. In Croatia and Bulgaria, it is used in a traditional eel dish. In Greece and Albania it is paired with spinach and chard for a robust spanikopita. In Belgium, preserved, pureed sorrel is mixed with mashed potatoes and bacon for a hearty winter dish. It is one of many herbs used in Vietnamese cuisine. In India, it is used to make soups or curries with lentils.
It is easy to see that in many countries, sorrel is used to counter the heavy, rich flavors of fall and winter. So let’s welcome it into our kitchens while we can. Before you know it, we’ll be craving its triumphant return in the spring.
Chicken with Sorrel
Yield: 4 servings
2 Tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken (2 ½ to 3 pounds), cut into serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large or 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
6 cups loosely packed sorrel, about ½ pound, trimmed and washed
1. Put butter in large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to medium-high. When butter begins to melt, swirl it around the pan. When its foam subsides and it begins to brown, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook, rotating pieces after 3 or 4 minutes so they brown evenly. As they brown on the skin side, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and turn them over; sprinkle skin side with salt and pepper as well. If necessary, lower heat to medium to prevent burning. Remove chicken to a plate when chicken is completely browned all over, in 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Immediately add onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften but still hold their shape, about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup water and cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, until it reduces slightly. Return chicken to pan, turn heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Uncover, add sorrel, stir, and cover again.
3. Cook about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sorrel is dissolved into onions and liquid. Serve hot, with rice or crusty bread.
Recipe by Mark Bittman, as featured at NYT Cooking (cooking.nytimes.com)
Sorrel Mashed Potatoes
Yield: 4 servings
4 ounces sorrel (about ½ of a bunch)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
**HVF Note: The purple Viking potatoes in this week’s box are an excellent choice.**
1. Peel the potatoes and steam or boil them until they are tender.
2. Meanwhile, wash the sorrel and cut the leaves into thin strips, using a stainless steel knife. Heat the butter in a frying pan and add the sorrel. Stir over low heat for a couple of minutes, until it has wilted. Add the cream and heat through.
3. Mash the potatoes. Stir in the sorrel puree and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe by Moira Hodgson & featured at NYT Cooking (cooking.nytimes.com)