Editor’s note: We are so excited to have chef and photographer Lisa Barlow back on our pages with recipes you will want to print out and keep.
Well, hello Spring! Brooklyn is blooming this week. Pretty pink cherry and magnolia blossoms are already showering their petals onto sidewalks and sunny yellow forsythia branches are cheering up backyards. Here in my little postage stamp of a garden is the first “crop” of the season: a stalwart perennial, garden sorrel.
Sorrel, with its bright lemony tang, has made its way into a wide variety of dishes around the world. Africans include it in soups and stews, as well as drinks. Eastern Europeans use it to make shav, or “green borscht”. In America, we take our cue from the French and serve it mostly as an accompaniment to fish. Blended into butter or cream, it makes a quick and elegant sauce for flounder or halibut.
A member of the Rumex family, garden sorrel, also known as “spinach dock”, comes in many varieties, some of which you may have come across in the wild or discounted in your own garden as weeds. It turns out that I actually have two kinds growing in Brooklyn: the narrow leafed, red veined variegated sorrel that I purchased last year at a twee little craft fair and the brighter green, broader leafed French sorrel that has been growing uncelebrated for years next to a clump of tiger lilies planted by my predecessor. Please note that wood sorrel, while it has the same name, is from the unrelated Oxalis family. Shaped like a shamrock, it is beloved by foragers for its similarly acidic taste, but it is hard to cultivate in a garden.
Garden Sorrel can be eaten raw, tossed into a salad or cut into ribbons to decorate a piece of fish, but I like the complexity that comes from taming it with heat and combining it with other ingredients.
Yotam Ottalenghi has a great take on veggie burgers, featuring chard and sorrel sauce. Instead of pine nuts, which his recipe includes, I used toasted walnuts because I had them on hand. The following is an adaptation of his recipe.
2 cups sorrel leaves
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 pounds Swiss chard
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
4 ounces pecorino cheese (or parmigiano), coarsely grated
6 tablespoons dried white bread crumbs
Grapeseed or olive oil for frying.
1.In a food processor or a blender, put sorrel, yogurt, garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil and mustard process until it is bright green. Salt to taste. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Separate stalks from chard leaves. Bring a large pan of water to boil. Add the stalks and simmer for 4 minutes. Then add the leaves, stir and continue simmering for 3 minutes. Drain the chard and place in ice water. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop leaves and stalks roughly and put in a bowl.
3. In a small pan, toast walnuts in 1 Tablespoon olive oil for 1 minute, or until light brown. Chop nuts coarsely and add to the chard, followed by the cheese, egg, breadcrumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. If mixture is too gooey, add more crumbs.
4. Pour enough frying oil into a large skillet to come 1/4 inch up the sides. Shape chard mixture into eight patties that are about ½ an inch thick. Fry them for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Place on paper towels to absorb oil. Serve warm or at room temperature, with sauce on the side.
This is a lovely accompaniment to poached or sautéed white fish such as flounder or halibut. The tanginess of the sorrel is a great substitute for lemon juice. By adding raw spinach at the last minute, the sauce obtains a bright green color that is a pretty contrast to the fish.
2 shallots, minced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups sorrel leaves
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup spinach leaves
Salt and pepper
• Melt butter and gently sauté shallots until soft.
• Cut off the stems of the sorrel and chop loosely. Add to shallots and cook until wilted.
• Add white wine and cooked until it has reduced by half.
• Add cream and cook over low heat until sauce covers the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.
• Cut of stems of spinach and chop loosely.
• Put sorrel sauce and spinach in the blender until smooth.