Sorrel-Potato Soup, the perfect spring soup, is delicious served hot or cold.

Sorrel, thyme and chives are the first to welcome Spring!

Long before  Steve Brill made hunting for wild foods a thing, since the dawn of our species we’ve been foraging our lands for edibles to survive. (In the eighties, Brill–aka, Wildman– began organizing foraging expeditions in Manhattan. Once he was slapped with a summons for making a meal from Central Park weeds. Minutes after his arraignment, he was offering samples of his Five Park Salad to passerby.)

Extreme? Maybe. But there is something atavistically satisfying about finding or–in my case–growing your own food. Take sorrel. In my small kitchen garden, sorrel (alongside chives and thyme) is one of the first perennials to nose its way up through the cold, damp Michigan spring soil.

Sadly, the beautiful spring green of sorrel turns into an unfortunate shade of Army Tank Green.

Throughout the world, sorrel is both domesticated and found in the wild. The tart, lemony taste finds its way into soups and stuffings and–when the leaves are young and tender–salads. And it’s  heavenly when turned into a sauce and served over fish–the fattier fish the better; tart sorrel balances fat so well.

I  love it paired with rich meaty lamb–this recipe for Lamb and Eggplant in a Sorrel sauce is a favorite. (The linked recipe for sorrel sauce above would be wonderful atop  fish.)

Grilled Lamb & Eggplant with Sorrel Sauce

You say you’ve never had a knack for growing veggies; plants wilt when you glance their way? Try sorrel. It’s like the scrawny kid who dons gloves and refuses to go down in a match. Smack it down, it bounces back for more; refuse it water, it thrives. In fact, the abuse seems to make it stronger. With a host of health properties and a lemony pungency that would make the heartiest of veggies blush, sorrel in all its bright glory,  is the antidote to winter blah.

So what’s not to like?  The color, for one. After it’s subjected to heat, it morphs to the patina of an army tank. That color, however, may be modified by using an equal part of fresh spinach in your favorite recipe, as I did in the recipe below.

Secondly, unless it’s very young and tender, I’d be surprised if you’d enjoy the flavor raw. It would be like eating a bunch of fresh herbs, not something you’d want to do but–as fresh herbs–the addition of sorrel can be the grace note in a recipe. Sauté it in butter with a smidgen of cream to counterbalance that lean, mean tang. Oh la la! Magnifique! The following recipe is my riff on a vichyssoise, which seems appropriate as the French have such a love of the vegetable. A favorite French food blog, Zucchini and Chocolate, lists fifty ways of incorporating sorrel into your recipes. Look for sorrel at your local green market, as I’ve never seen it in traditional grocery stores.

Recipe: Sorrel Vichyssoise

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced (approximately 6 cups)
  • 6-8 cups packed sorrel, stems removed and coarsely chopped
  • 3 pounds medium-sized russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6-8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6-8 cups packed cups equal portions of spinach, stems removed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1-2 fistfuls of snipped chives plus extra for garnish, if desired
  • Pinch of nutmeg and cayenne

Instructions

  1. Sauté leeks in oil over low heat with a pinch of kosher salt 3 minutes. Add sorrel and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until sorrel has cooked down and turned a khaki color and leeks have wilted.
  2. Add potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  3. In a food processor, puree potatoes, leeks, stock and sorrel until creamy. Stir milk and chives into soup. Season to taste with kosher salt, cayenne and nutmeg. Delicious served hot or cold, as you would a vichyssoise.

Active time: 30 minutes

Simmer time: apx. 20 minutes

Chill time (if serving as a cold soup): 12 hours

Number of servings (yield): 12-14 cups (leftovers keep, refrigerated, several days)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Five-Minute Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Spread

Coming off a four-week, super-intense editing of my next book, “The Welcome Home Diner”, a contemporary novel about two women opening a diner on Detroit’s east side. I get why writers isolate themselves during the process. I was assigned  a well-seasoned editor determined to squeeze the best book that she could out of me. The verdict will be in the hands of the readers. (If you’re interested in a free advance digital copy when available, please advise!)

So now it’s over and I feel as if I’ve been hit by a stun gun. Been invited for cocktails–everyone’s to bring an appie–and don’t  have the energy to get in the car to even buy a hunk of cheese. I do, however, have the energy to be with friends; I’ve been in the isolation tank too long. And have a drink. Not necessarily in that order.

Rummaging through the back crevices of the fridge and thar’ she blows! One-half of a jar of roasted red peppers saddled up to some feta are speaking to me.

Five minutes later I actually have something pretty tasty. I know there are plethoras of ready made dips to be found at local markets, but nothing–honestly guys–ever tastes as good as homemade. Even if homemade was made using short-cuts.

Quick little Mediterranean nosh.

If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s in your town, there are a few short-cut products I’ve found indispensable for making  last minute appetizers.

♥ Their olive tapenade (the one found in the refrigerated section). ♥ Bottled roasted red peppers (a shelved product pictured above) for a variety of uses. They’re as close to roasting at home as I’ve tasted. ♥ Their spinach-feta phyllo triangles (found in the frozen section of the store) ♥ Assorted cheeses (you can’t beat those prices).

To make the platter above, I purchased the tapenade, goat cheese and roasted red peppers. Then, I roasted a head of garlic by: cutting off garlic head, drizzling exposed cloves with EVO, and then roasting in a double thickness of foil until cloves are softened, about 40 minutes. Sliced avocado and a crunchy baguette yields a tidy little Mediterranean nosh in no-time.

Even quicker: Purchase a log of goat cheese along with the aforementioned tapenade, spread the tapenade over the goat cheese and serve with a baguette. A sprig of fresh rosemary placed atop the cheese is the perfect grace note.

The Promise Kitchen

By the way, “The Promise Kitchen” is on promotion–only $2.00! The reduced price has meant the book sales have been darting about in the top 100 Kindle books in women’s fiction this month; last week the book topped 900 in overall library sales. (Not sure of the amount of women’s fiction but there’s well over a million books in the Kindle library.) This two-buck-book-chuck may be cheating, but I’ll take it.

Recipe: 5-minute Roasted Red Pepper Feta Cheese Spread

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces (drained) Fire-Roasted Red Peppers*
  • 3 ounces feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • Pinch or more cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped dill (optional)
  • Pita bread, fresh vegetables for dipping

Instructions

  1. Place red pepper(s), feta, garlic, a pinch of cayenne, olive oil and dill (if using) in processor. Blend until combined.
  2. Refrigerate for several hours until firm. Serve with pita bread, pita chips or fresh vegetables for dipping.

* I used the Trader Joe’s brand of bottled fire roasted red peppers. If you don’t have time to roast your own, these are the best I’ve found. They also are delish in this recipe for Pimento Cheese. I even add a teaspoon of the delectiable juice.

Total time: 5 minutes

Number of servings (yield): Enough to fill a small (2 cup) bowl. The perfect size for bringing to a potluck.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Home Away in Barbados: Marlin Steaks Bajan-Styled

Traveling pleasures, for me, include exploring food markets and trying my hand at local cuisines.

We’ve just returned from Barbados, the most easterly island in the West Indies; a 3 1/2 hour flight south from Miami, and then another hour flight south to Venezuela.

When traveling, Richard and I often rent a VRBO, a subsidiary of Home Away,  Flip Key (owned by Trip Advisor) or an AirB&B condo, depending on the location we’re traveling. Trolling these sites is a favorite sport and can reap dividends. The best for less condos book first.

Said condo must be in a location ideal for a safe integration into the culture. Excellent reviews are a given, but anything less than a full-service kitchen’s a deal breaker.

Here’s the link to the condo we decided to splurge on; throw in that kiss the Caribbean view and it was worth every penny. A bit pricier than what we usually spend, but think about it, I said to my husband. Think about what we’re saving by not eating out every meal.

In Barbados, fish–moments from the Atlantic–local produce and rum are a fraction of what you’d fork out in the States. I avoid the imports, which can cost two or three times the amount I’m used to spending.

Most certainly we eat out, people watching is half the fun. I select restaurants using Trip Advisor as my Michelin guide.  Local menus, as well as the street food scene, inspired this vacation’s condo cooking.

At most rentals, pantry staples may not be much more than salt and pepper. Therefore, menus are minimalist by necessity. Take these melt-in-your-mouth marlin steaks.

The first evening after arriving we went to the popular Oistin’s Friday Night Fish Fry and had grilled marlin (see featured photograph). It was simply prepared and superb.

The next day, I went to the fish market and purchased blue marlin steaks.

For less than ten American dollars I purchased four juicy steaks from marlin that had just been caught in the Atlantic that morning.

I requested she cut the fillets into 3/4-inch steaks; perfect for a quick fry.

The vendor recommended I  marinate them in lemon juice, herbs, seasoning and oil, dip them in flour, and then fry the steaks in fat.

At an outdoor stall, I purchased lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes to make a simple salad.

Walking back to our condo, a small package of curry and a box of Zatarain’s rice and beans purchased at a thread-bare grocery store satisfied my ingredient list. I opt for pre-seasoned boxed grains when traveling. (Near East is another favorite.)

Why not? I only use half the pack of seasoning to avoid that over-salted, out-of-a box taste. I’ve no intentions of stocking the condo’s spice cabinet larder. Since I only travel with carry-on, I can’t pack leftover food stuffs in my luggage. Some fierce shepherd dogs at customs once sniffed out dried truffles I’d forgotten I’d packed in Lucca, Italy. Busted!  I always  learn the hard way.

Traditional Bajan food is rooted in African cuisine; I’m seeing a lot of rice and beans as sides in the menu boards around town. (As well as Macaroni Pie, which seems to be universally loved by the Bajans. Ugh. A step up from Sponge Bob, but I’ll pass, thanks for the offer.)

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This is a no-recipe recipe that would work for any 3/4-inch sliced fish steak:

Whisk together juice from 1/2 lemon, 1/3 cup olive oil and and 2 teaspoons curry powder. Marinate each side of the steaks 15 minutes or so at room temperature. Dredge both sides in flour, shaking off excess.  Heat fat, such as butter and olive oil, to medium-high heat. Fry each side apx. 4 minutes until golden brown. 

They were superb seasoned with the local, ubiquitous yellow pepper sauce, blessedly another condo staple! There was no need to season them with salt, the briny Atlantic doused them with all the sodium required.

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When I had my fill of fish (I never dreamed that would be possible), I’d choose one of the ubiquitous chicken curries in restaurants. After all, Rhianna, a native Bajan, says she can’t eat enough of this when she returns home.

A plowed sugar cane field. Sugar’s a primary export.

I was delighted to unearth her favorite recipe for curried chicken, which looks heavenly–quite different from the usual Indian curries to which I gravitate.

Maneuvering  the trickeries of  long-distance travel comfortably on a budget is like mastering roulettes; one misstep finds you feeling homeless, curled up in a corner of Chaing Mai International Airport using a newspaper for a pillow. (Been there.)

TSA pre-screen and restricting our luggage to carry-on eases the pains of  airline travel considerably.  Using Frequent Flyer miles, avoiding weekend travel, and advance planning also contributes to seamless travel.

Because of the $200 fee, I’m on the fence regarding Global Entry. I blew it when I didn’t purchase Global Entry before purchasing the TSA pre-screen. (Global Entry automatically enrolls you in the pre-screen). I’ll purchase it after missing my next connection because of a long line through customs.

“A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss.” 

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