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 ).

sabato 3 aprile 2010

Sorrel, the Garden Gift that Just Keeps Giving

A number of years ago, the Italian Scallion and I planted sorrel seeds from friends who’d smuggled them into Italy. We are, at best, desultory gardeners. Our neighbors down the street have been gifted with green thumbs; every time we drive by their lovely vegetable garden we turn beyond green with envy (their tomatoes are always healthy, happy and red when ours are sort of red and green, rotting, filled with other garden nuisances). The Scallion has a Chartreuse Thumb, and I have no thumb at all.

Thus the beauty of sorrel. It’s the culinary equivalent of geraniums: you’d have to work really hard to kill it. We have two patches, which we largely ignore, and it seems to thrive on our indifference Above please do note Waldo on the right, posing prettily with one of the ignored patches. Above, posing even prettier-ly is Lulu, backed by narcissi, jar of finished sorrel mayonnaise to her left.

In Italy, it’s called acetinosa, and it’s practically impossible to find here, maybe because it has a most slim shelf life. It wilts practically the moment you cut it. Janet Ross, in Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen or how to cook vegetables (first published 1899, reprint New York, 1977), provides one recipe: you purèe it, cover it with butter, which then forms the basis of a soup, or you can add it to an omelette and, though she doesn’t suggest this, you can use it to sauce a mild-flavored white fish (such as ocean perch, sole, or cod). Ms. Ross (1842-1927) lived for a number of years outside Florence, in Poggio Gherardo, and either had it in her kitchen garden or had a friend who did. The Larousse Gastronomique (New York, 1988) reveals that it has only 25 calories/100 grams, and that it’s high in potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C. The writers propose pairing it with shad, pike, or veal breast. Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers have many sorrel recipes in their River Café Green Book. These are Italianate but not truly Italian. In fact, most Italians don't know what sorrel is.

It’s a lovely leaf, and sort of resembles a really, really lemony spinach. It grows like a weed. You could be a garden moron and it would still thrive. It also makes a great mayonnaise, divine over hard-boiled eggs.

Happy Easter.

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Sorrel Mayonnaise

1 dozen organic eggs, hard boiled
An ample ½ lb. of sorrel
4 c. best-quality mayonnaise (like Hellman’s)
Juice from two lemons
An equally ample handful of flat-leaf parsley
1 scant t. ground white pepper
Pinch of sea salt
2 T. crème fraiche, optional

Ostensibly this would serve 12, a perfect number for an Easter lunch (think of the Apostles). However, some people really love this mayonnaise, and hoard their eggs. Judge accordingly. (Dogs go crazy for this, as I found after having accidentally dropped the wooden spatula used to stir the mayonnaise. Dogs went so crazy for it that they also licked splatters off clogs and trousers.)

Find a nice serving platter, cut the eggs in half, and arrange on said, yolk-side down. Throw all the other ingredients into a blender, adding the sorrel in increments to keep it from clogging the blender. Liberally pour the mayonnaise over the eggs, and eat immediately, or refrigerate ‘til you’re hungry.

McFizzled (Out): following the advice of an assiduous reader (who suggested McItaly be tried in other venues) … the campaign, it seems, is over. The McDonald’s at the train station at Santa Maria Novella is now pushing ranch chicken wraps (most tempting), the McDonald’s on via Cavour the same. McItaly has evaporated, gone with the wind/dust in the wind (to quote Margaret Mitchell/the lead singer from a band from the 70s called Kansas). Perhaps that explains the unmelted cheese on my burger – like, no one was ordering it? But to be fair to the Golden Arches – Asiago simply doesn’t melt very nicely. We had a most boring brown rice casserole with cubes of said. Even after 30 plus minutes in a 350° oven, the rice emerged piping hot, the Asiago in its cube-al state. Heated through, yes, but really not melted. Unclear if they rethink this campaign, or throw in the towel. What's clear is that it annoyed a whole lot of people.

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