Sorrel is a part of my family history, but I never tasted it, or heard of it till I was in my early twenties. My mother didn’t speak Polish, and her maternal grandmother didn’t speak English. But Mom lived with Grandma Slim (short for Slimkosky) for a time, and she told more stories about her grandmother’s pickles, sauerkraut, and pigs feet that she ever told about her own mother. And Grandma Slim was a forager; she hunted for her own mushrooms, and sorrel.
When Mom was struggling with cancer, one of the tastes she most craved was sorrel; especially sorrel soup. She talked about her Polish grandmother picking sorrel in the woods, and making the soup when she was a girl. I had no idea what she was talking about.
In 1992, you couldn’t just Google and order online. I made a trip to the Pike Place Market, and found it was out of season, and hard to come by even at the right time of the year. One of the purveyors suggested I grow it, if I wanted to taste it. Mom didn’t have that kind of time.
Years later I was paging through a Russian cookbook in a bookstore in Boston, and I came across a recipe for sorrel soup. It wasn’t quite right, clearly; Mom remembered hot soup, and this was cold – a green borcht, but it was a start. I bought the book, hoping one day I’d actually taste the plant.
Another decade goes by. I have a garden now, so I plant sorrel. But it never comes up. Spinach and Cilantro flourish everywhere, but no sorrel. Finally, after I joined a CSA a few years back, I got my first takes of sorrel. Tart, vibrant, totally addictive. I didn’t get enough for soup, but I had it in a spinach salad, and I was hooked.
So I was elated to find it last weekend at the Ballard Farmers Market. If I hadn’t started this project, made the commitment to shop at the farmer’s market as much as possible, I wouldn’t have been there, and I would have missed another chance for this exquisite taste, and the connection it embodies.
I got the last bag the vendor had and I ate a few leaves right there in the market. But again, there wasn’t enough for soup.
I ended up creating this sauce – I lightly covered some fresh Alaskan Halibut with the sauce and broiled the fish for all of five minutes. Today I dipped carrots in it for lunch, and I’m planning to use it for salad dressing tonight.
1 cup sorrel (washed and stemmed)
1 cup cilantro (I never stem cilantro, your choice)
3 heads of garlic
Juice from one large lemon (not even close to local or seasonal! Lemons get a fruit pass)
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup organic plain Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper
Process the first four ingredients in the food processor, and then add enough yogurt to achieve the thickness you desire. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Next week, you can bet I’ll be at the market early. And I’m starting with the vendor who had the sorrel last week. Cross your fingers for me! I can almost taste the soup.