Sorrel: The Pungent Plant

A Flavorful and Leafy Green that can spice up a variety of dishes

by: Jesse Hom-Dawson

A perennial herb related to rhubarb and buckwheat, sorrel (not to be mistaken with the Jamaican hibiscus drink, also called sorrel) is a leafy green that resembles spinach in looks, but mimics arugula in taste with its bright and slightly bitter flavor. In season from spring through summer, sorrel is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes, from soups to seafood. Since it has an acidic flavor, it’s best if used sparingly when raw, when mixed in with other greens for a salad, or topping a pasta dish.

Sorrel is used in dishes all over the world, even in ancient Rome and Egypt, where it was used to balance out rich and heavy food. In France—where sorrel is slightly milder in flavor—the French, who call it oseille, use it to make a classic soup called Potage à L’Oseille. In India, where it’s called chukkakura, the leaves are used to make chutney, and in northern Nigeria, it’s used in stew and salads.

An important note about sorrel: its bitter flavor comes from oxalic acid, so only cook sorrel in unlined aluminum or cast iron, or else it will turn an unappetizing shade of brown. Regardless, it will still lose some of its vibrant green color once you cook it down. You can also blanch the leaves, but it will reduce the acidic bite. Sorrel leaves are fragile and don’t travel well, so it probably won’t be found at your neighborhood supermarket. Look instead at the local Greenmarket or farmer’s market, where it’s often sold with other herbs or leafy greens.

Sorrel Pesto

Eggs with Sorrel Pesto and Goat Cheese

(serves 2)

2 large slices of bread (preferably something rustic and crusty)
4 oz. goat cheese
6 oz. smoked salmon
Zest from half a lemon
Knob of butter
4 eggs
⅓ cup sorrel pesto (recipe follows)
2 cups arugula
¼ cup sliced strawberries
Balsamic vinegar
Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Using a pastry brush, brush bread with olive oil and toast. Cut slices in half and spread each half with 1 oz. of goat cheese. Place smoked salmon on top and then sprinkle with lemon zest. Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Crack 2 eggs into the pan, and put a lid over it. Cook for 3-5 minutes until whites are set but the yolk is still soft and runny. Repeat for remaining 2 eggs. Assemble toast on plate, place eggs next to it and spoon pesto over eggs. Toss arugula with a drizzle of balsamic and sliced strawberries. Arrange salad on plate, and finish entire dish with a pinch of Maldon sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Sorrel Pesto

4 large garlic cloves
⅓ cup walnuts
10 large sorrel leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼- ½ cup grated Parmesan

Mince garlic in food processer. Add walnuts and sorrel, pulse until finely chopped. Add olive and salt and process until creamy and fully mixed. Stir in cheese to taste.

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