What’s with the sweaters and umbrellas? Brrrr. Into the middle of August, some of us feel ripped off by summer. My garden sorrel disagrees.
Like lettuce, sorrel is a cool-weather crop, and the sorrel I purchased in early May at The Produce Station is loving these damp days and below-average temperatures. Without a hint of bolting, it’s gifted me several batches of the long lemon-flavored leaves since spring.
Sometimes, but not often, I’ll find sorrel at a farmers market or green grocery, and on rare occasion I taste it incorporated into a local restaurant dish. Therefore, it’s the perfect candidate for my small kitchen garden, where I plant items that delight my palate and are difficult to source.
The young, tender leaves are less sour than older, larger leaves and can be incorporated into a salad with other mixed greens, or chopped and used as a seasoning as you would any herb; using them raw is the only way of retaining their fresh color. For — you see — when cooked, this spring grass greenness morphs into a patina resembling commodity vegetable baby food. But don’t let that put you off; underneath this less-than-appetizing shade hides a zingy lemon-tart flavor with a pleasant, slightly bitter, undertone — oh so marvelous in an abundance of recipes.
But don’t stop at sorrel sauce. In the finest restaurants, sorrel is considered a chef’s secret ammunition when used alone or with other herbs in omelets, soups, risotto, gratins, grain dishes, and pasta. I love it simply tossed into a skillet of just sauteed summer squash.
I’m crazy about pairing sorrel with lamb, and boneless leg of lamb and eggplant are ideal candidates for the grill. The menu couldn’t be easier to pull together. Here is how it’s done:
Make the sorrel sauce an hour or so in advance. Prepare your eggplant slices, partially peeling away skin, and slicing them into 3/4-inch pieces. Salt the slices and let them rest on towels as you prepare the grill. Grill the seasoned lamb (following the recipe below), and as the lamb rests after grilling, grill the eggplant, which, by the way, are also marvelous with the sauce. Reheat you sauce, spoon over lamb and done.
The recipe below for sorrel sauce is a typical preparation using the herb, and would also be marvelous atop a rich fish, such as salmon, or chicken. The heavy cream tones down the tart flavor and is, no doubt, scrumptious in the sauce. But if you want to cut calories, consider skipping the cream and mellowing the sorrel with an equal amount of spinach. While you’re at it, you have full permission to substitute olive oil for the cream.
Don’t fret if sorrel isn’t available to you. The following recipe for grilled lamb is a pleasure by itself; I’d simply rub finely chopped rosemary and ground fennel into the lamb with the salt and pepper before grilling.
In France the words “avoir de l’oseille” are literally translated meaning “to have some sorrel”. But those who “en connaitre un rayon” (know a thing or two about) the French, understand it’s an idiomatic expression meaning “to be filthy rich” — which is the feeling I’ve had harvesting my little patch of sorrel this summer.