Saturday, April 01, 2006

Revisiting a Soon-To-Be Old Friend - Weekend Herb Blogging #26: Sorrel

Saturday mornings, I sometimes visit someone who is old, and becoming more and more of a friend, and just happens to sell wonderful herbs at the local farmers market. Maybe someday an actual old friend. But not quite yet.

I think there is a rule of thumb that varies from location to location, as to when old friendship status can be conferred. I know in Munich, for example, to become an actual member of a ‘’ – i.e. part of a group that meets at a certain time on a certain day every week or month in the same restaurant, and gets an actual permanent reserved sign on their table – i.e. that table is so valuable, only certain people are allowed to sit at it at certain times on certain days, ever – you have to wait till someone from the original group dies. Plus – you have to be about a third generation Bavarian to even get on the waiting list. So it can take a while. But the status, once conferred, is permanent. These are hard core old friends.

I imagine southern California plays by a looser set of rules, given the more transient nature of the population here. I mean – three generations ago, this was all just orange trees. No friends of any sort, old or otherwise.

The prospects of achieving old friendship status are often impacted by things like soccer games on Saturday mornings, or the sudden need to transport some teenage girls to a hastily arranged (amongst themselves anyways) shopping event.

And, of course, you can’t force the issue. You can’t just show up over-enthused, as if old friends status existed, or might soon. That kills the deal. It’s seems like it have to be a naturally evolving, symbiotic relationship.

Well, this guys got the best herbs around, with the widest selection (at least of non-Asian varieties), and low prices to boot. And when I am there, I buy a bunch, plus we chat for a while. So it seems a reasonable basis has been established.

I was lucky this weekend that soccer was canceled due to rain (again!). I was happy to stop by and see what was new for spring, and also just to see if the old man was still there. And he was. And spring has definitely sprung here.

One of my first questions every time I go is whether he has fresh sorrel. I learned about sorrel while reading ‘On Food and Cooking’ by Harold McGee. And then I happened to see it. As usual – I just bought it.

The really surprising thing about sorrel is the explosive and unexpected lemony flavor of the leaves. It doesn’t strike you at first, but after a few seconds, it’s really startling.

The other interesting thing about sorrel is that, when sautéed over low heat, the leaves just simply dissolve into a sauce. It’s like some kind of magic trick. A little olive oil in the pan, low heat, the whole leaves tossed in, stir for a few minutes, and a bright green, lemony flavored creamy sauce appears.

Just a note – if you cook the sorrel too long, it turns from a bright green to a grey color. I suggest cooking just until it turns to a sauce, and stirring in a few reserved fresh leaves, chopped, at the end to brighten up the color of the sauce. I add just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end to brighten the flavor as well, although this is optional.

You can use sorrel raw in salads, make soups from it, etc, but I most often make this simple sauce and use it together with a strong fish, such as salmon. The lemony, astringent flavor of the sorrel really complements the slightly oily nature of a fish like salmon. This makes a wonderful, very flavorful dish that is very easy to make.

So tonight, pan roasted salmon fillet with sorrel sauce, served with a fresh arugula salad (also from the farmers market), and some steamed rice. A real spring dinner! With some great friends, who are fast becoming great old friends!

This recipe is for the ‘' event, sponsored by Kalyn, at the blog. Stop over there Sunday evening or Monday to see a roundup of all the Weekend Herb Blogging entries!

Pan-Roasted Salmon Fillet with Sorrel Sauce

3 lb fresh salmon fillet
Olive Oil
Salt, pepper
2 bunches sorrel, washed
a few sorrel leaves reserved for the finish, chopped
2 shallots, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
Thin cut lemon slices as garnish
Parsley, chopped fine, as garnish

Remove skin from salmon fillet an cut into serving sized pieces. Heat olive oil in a large sautee pan. Add salmon, ‘presentation side’ down. Sautee for a few minutes on medium high heat, until browned, and turn to brown on other side. Once browned, remove to a heat proof plate and set in a warm oven – 250 to 300ºF for 10 minutes to cook through.

While fish is cooking, heat butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallots, and sauté until just softened. Reduce heat slightly, add the sorrel (reserve a few leaves for the finish), and stir gently. Don’t let the sorrel ‘boil’. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the sorrel melts, turn off the heat, and add the reserved leaves. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and stir. Taste and re-season as necessary.

Place a salmon fillet on a warmed plate. Spoon some sorrel sauce decoratively over it. Garnish with lemon slices and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve. Enjoy!

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Blogger Kalyn said...

I think the description of this sauce has inspired me to try growing some sorrel in my herb garden this year. It sounds just amazing.

5:43 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Kalyn, thanks for the comment! It is a really nice sauce, especially with the salmon. If I had time/patience/ability to grow something, sorrel would be high on my list.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous sher said...

Ahh--that looks wonderful I also need to grow this herb because I never see it in the grocery store,

9:28 PM  

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