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Naturally dressed for summer

Sorrel's bright lemony zing needs no adornment. Think of it as an herb or a green, and use it with abandon. You'll find it in abundance at farmers markets now.

June 18, 2003|Donna Deane | Times Staff Writer

Although in this country we usually find sorrel packaged as an herb in produce sections of supermarkets (at $2 for less than an ounce!), in the late spring and summer this spinach-like leafy green makes its way into farmers markets in great big bunches. We found some recently at less than $1 a pound and decided to create some dishes that would highlight its lemony flavor.

Sorrel, commonly used in French and East European cooking, is a welcome addition to California cuisine. Its tart-sour flavor complements both sweet and bitter greens in a salad, and it brightens up fish and potato dishes.

A perennial herb, sorrel belongs to the buckwheat family. The tartness of the leaves (from the oxalic acid in the plant) varies according to the variety and age of the plant. More mature leaves are stronger in flavor and best used in soups and sauces for meats, eggs and vegetables. Young, delicately flavored spring leaves are great in salads and sandwiches.

When you're shopping for sorrel, look for bright green leaves with tender stems. The larger the leaves, the older (and thus more strongly flavored) the sorrel will be. Avoid leaves that are yellow-green or wilted.

Wash the sorrel in cold running water as you would spinach leaves and drain on paper towels, patting dry. Wrap in damp paper towels or plastic bags and refrigerate for up to three days before using.

Traditional recipes call for cooking sorrel, but our contemporary taste for lively flavors makes it a good choice fresh in the uncooked form.

That wonderful lemony flavor comes through in the chiffonade salad topping for the grilled cod recipe, and the bright green contrasts vibrantly with the mixed yellow and red cherry tomatoes. The cod is marinated in a coriander and lemon mix before grilling. Buy whole coriander and crush it in a mortar before adding it to the marinade. The crushing of the seeds is very aromatic, and I like the crunch that comes from the coriander.

Ask for true cod at the fish market for this recipe. This is the cod that normally is used for making fish and chips. It is a very mild white-meat fish that flakes easily when grilled.

The green-on-green salad uses sorrel both in the salad and in the dressing. The tang of sorrel makes for a good change in a season of salads.

Serve the greens chilled and on a chilled plate with the dressing on the side so people can drizzle as they please. I like to top the greens with a few wedges of garden tomatoes when they are at their peak. A sprinkle of a few baby fresh mozzarella balls cut in half also is a nice addition.

The potato cakes can be made the morning of or a day ahead of a dinner party. Sorrel tends to turn a dull green when cooked, so I toss it into the onion and garlic mixture at the end of cooking so that it just barely wilts. It remains green and keeps its body.

After you've shaped the cakes, coat them with egg and cover with panko bread crumbs. The crumbs give the potato cakes a nice golden appearance and add a bit of crunch.

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Green-on-green salad

Total time: 35 minutes

Servings: 6 servings of salad greens, 1 1/2 cups of dressing

Note: There's sorrel in both the salad and the dressing.

2 cups torn butter lettuce

2 cups chopped romaine

4 cups torn sorrel

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup chopped green onion

2 cups chopped sorrel

2 anchovy fillets, chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 tablespoon milk

Salt and pepper

1. Toss together the butter lettuce, romaine and torn sorrel in a glass bowl. Cover with damp paper towels and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. While the greens are chilling, place the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, green onion, chopped sorrel, anchovies, lemon juice, dill weed and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, then blend to incorporate them.

3. Spoon the dressing onto chilled greens and toss gently.

For each serving using 1 tablespoon of dressing: 132 calories; 97 mg. sodium; 10 mg. cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 1 gram fiber.

*

Sorrel potato cakes

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: About 4 as a side dish (makes 10 small cakes)

Note: Panko bread crumbs are available in Asian markets and in the Asian food sections of well-stocked groceries.

1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt

3 tablespoons butter, divided

1/4cup minced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups diced sorrel

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Cracked black pepper

Salt

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon water

1 cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons oil

1. In a large pan, bring to a boil enough salted water to cover the potatoes. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes, then press through a ricer. Cover the potatoes and keep them warm while preparing the sorrel.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute.

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