You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

venerdì 23 aprile 2010

Sorrel and Venetian Dogs, Two More Times with Feeling or

Déjà vu all over again.

The problem with gardening is that sometimes it’s hard to keep up. When things come into season, you suddenly find you have a lot of something, and you have to use it (or feel guilty by not doing so). Here’s where neighbors come in handy, but we don’t really have any. Or any who would want sorrel.

Because the weather’s been unseasonably cool (it’s raining cats and dogs as I write), the sorrel thrives. It’s the biggest it’s ever been in the years we’ve been ignoring it. Dorry Baird Norris, in the Sage Cottage Herb Garden Cookbook (Chester, CT., 1991), calls it “spring personified.” Yeah, and then some. (Her book is grand; my guess is that she didn't have a problem with too much sorrel.)

Patience Gray (1917-2005), in Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades, and Apulia (New York,1986) , lists sorrel in her “Edible Weeds” chapter. It certainly does grow like one. She provides some lovely uses for it. She quotes John Gerard’s the Herball or General Historie of Plantes (first published in 1597). His recipe calls for mashing sorrel raw, seasoning it with sugar and vinegar, and saucing roast meats with it (which might taste really good on a turkey burger). She also calls it by another Italian word (acetosella). She suggests melting it in butter, and then serving it with fish; chopping and mixing it with breadcrumbs, egg yolks, and butter as a stuffing for fish; simmering it in butter and then using it to top off steamed potatoes.

Sorrel is a magnet for snails and slugs, so do clean each leaf carefully. Wash it thoroughly, as it sometimes accumulates fine grit veneers, and do make a point of removing the leaves from the rib. (Know that this soup is good hot or cold; it works in winter, it works in July). When it’s cooked, sorrel turns from a bright, vivid green to a mud-colored hue (if hues cans be mud-colored). This is why the parsley’s important, as it makes the soup slightly less dour looking.

Lulu hovered near the stove while I was making this, eagerly lapping up stray sorrel leaves that somehow missed the pot. She’s weird.

Sorrel, Leek, and Potato Soup

10 oz. sorrel, carefully cleaned, leaves torn from ribs
3 leeks, white part only, thoroughly washed and diced
1 T. extravirgin olive oi
2 T. butter
1¼ lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
5 c. vegetable broth
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 bunch of chives, scissor-snipped
¼ c. creamy goat cheese
Borage flowers, if possible, for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil in a deep-bottomed pot. Add the potatoes, the broth, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the sorrel and parsley, and stir to combine. Let cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the goat cheese, and let cool slightly. Adjust for salt and pepper, and whizz in a blender. Ladle into bowls, and scissors snip the chives as garnish. If you’re lucky enough to have flowering borage, toss a couple of those lovely little blue flowers on top of the chives.

Serves a whole lot of people.

Sorrel Butter

½ lb. best-quality butter
2 heaping handfuls of sorrel
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Small freezer bags

Mortar and pestle the butter and sorrel in increments, adding the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place 3 T. of the sorrel butter in as many freezer bags as it takes, and freeze. Remember that they’re there, and add a bag to scrambled eggs, a baked potato, or a vegetable soup.

Venetian Dog Update: Assiduous reader Martina Archly posed an important question regarding Venetian dogs. Dogaressa of the Broken Halo weighed in with a meaty comment: “[I] cannot comment on the similarity of Venetian persons to their Venetian dogs because said dogs generally seem to roam about solo, an assertion of their confidence and independent spirits … I hypothesize that it is an expression of their venezianita that they are comfortable in any campo in the city and apparently know their way back home. I have never seen a Venetian dog on a bridge, which might lead one to believe that they stick to their own neighborhoods, but I swear that just last week I saw one in Campo San Barnaba in the morning and saw him again near S. Polo later in the same day. These guys get around. Which might explain their features, no?”

Photographs of Venetian Dogs by Savvy New York Editor and Nichole Lau, August 2009.

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