Chilled Pea and Sorrel Soup

by Maja Lukic


How pretty are those violet radish micro greens? Sometimes I feel spoiled living so close to a fantastic farmers market. I'm on a mission to purchase at least one new item every week and find a creative way to use it. On a recent trip to the market, as I was picking out the radish micro greens pictured throughout, a display of baby sorrel caught my attention. 

Sorrel is a beautiful perennial herb. It has a pronounced tart and oxalic flavor and, according to Deborah Madison, sorrel belongs in the same family as rhubarb and buckwheat, which is pretty amazing. It's a lovely green plant with delicately-shaped, pointed leaves. 

With the focus on spring's glossier vegetables like asparagus or cult favorites like ramps, I think poor sorrel gets overlooked. To be fair, it's not as accessible as other greens. Grocery stores sell small bunches of sorrel in plastic containers but for a larger quantity, you have to visit a farmers market. And sorrel can be fairly expensive. Even so, I think it's underutilized. When I stepped up to pay for my bag of greens at the market, the girl behind the cash register squinted at the sorrel and said: "Are you making a soup? I'm always asking people about what they do with sorrel." What do people do with sorrel? That weekend, I was planning on making this soup but I've since discovered some other applications. 

There are interesting recipes out there for yoghurt or cream-based sorrel sauces but I was determined to find/create vegan recipes. And, basically, sorrel, with its incredible tangy flavor, applies in any dish where you might otherwise add a burst of lemon juice -- think of seafood, grains, potatoes, lentils, sauces, vinaigrettes, pastas, pestos, or soups. Of course, I love lemons and tart flavors so much that I often add lemon juice to sorrel dishes anyway. 

It's beautiful, crunchy, bright green, and astringent in its raw form. In its cooked form, that vibrant shade quickly bleeds into a drab army green as soon as the leaves and the plant generally assumes a slimy texture. I was shocked the first time I prepared this soup! But its beautiful tart flavor remains strong even when cooked and once you blend the soup, the dish looks fine. Because it's still early in the season, I found baby sorrel and the stems were not an issue. But as the season progresses and the sorrel matures, you will want to remove the thick stems of the leaves before you use it. If you'd like to learn more, Food52 has a great little article on sorrel. 

This is intended to be served as a chilled soup but I've heated it gently on cooler evenings and it's nice like that, too. The sorrel lightens the sweet, starchy peas, and for added interest, I like to top it off with a citrusy, creamy coconut cream and some purple radish micro greens, which have a mild spicy flavor. If you can't find radish micro greens, use sliced radishes or some spicy arugula for a similar bite. In the end, the soup has a delicate balance of cooling and spicy, sweet and tangy, and crunchy and creamy elements. 

The lemon-coconut cream is entirely optional but I love how it looks in the soup and once swirled in, it lends the soup a lovely creamy quality -- much like actual sour cream. Fair warning, though: although I really like it in this soup, it does have a subtle sweetness and a trace of coconut flavor. If you don't love the coconut, omit the cream and substitute a plain dairy product or enjoy the soup on its own. 

Chilled Pea and Sorrel Soup with Lemon-Coconut Cream (v/gf)

Serves 6

Soup

1 tbsp avocado oil

3-4 shallots, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup white wine (I like a nice Albariño )

2 lbs. peas (fresh or frozen)

2 cups baby sorrel 

2 cups water

1 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Lemon-Coconut Cream

1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight

1 lemon

sea salt

garnish: purple radish micro greens (or sliced radishes), olive oil

Wash the sorrel and if the plant is mature or the stems look tough and stringy, remove the stems.

Heat the avocado oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the shallots until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and white wine and cook for a few more minutes until the wine reduces by half. 

Add the peas, sorrel, and about 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook until the sorrel wilts and the peas are just cooked through (for fresh peas) or warmed through (for frozen peas). Do not overcook. Take the soup off the heat and allow it to cool. If it looks too watery, remove some of the excess liquid. Blend the soup with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until creamy. Return to the soup pot, season with a teaspoon of sea salt, and set aside. At this point, you can chill the soup for a few hours to serve later or you can serve right away at room temperature. 

To prepare the coconut cream, turn the can upside down and open it. The coconut fat will be at the bottom of the can and the liquid will be at the top. Carefully pour out the liquid but reserve it. Scoop the coconut fat out into a separate bowl and add the zest and juice of a lemon. Stir until creamy, adding a few tablespoons of the reserved coconut liquid if the cream seems too stiff. Add sea salt to taste. 

To serve the soup, ladle into bowls and swirl a tablespoon of coconut cream into each bowl. Top with a small handful of radish micro greens and a few more drops of olive oil, if desired. 

The soup can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. Serve chilled or gently heated. 

Note: You can either use fresh or frozen peas but frozen peas are sweeter, in my opinion. To preserve the bright color, don't overcook the peas -- take the soup off the heat as soon as the peas are cooked (for fresh peas) or defrosted (for frozen peas). Be sure to use chilled coconut milk. Note that when the coconut cream is chilled again, it will solidify and adopt a texture similar to firm cream cheese. 


Chocolate & Coconut Chia Seed Mousse

by Maja Lukic


I don't mind an occasional chia seed pudding for breakfast once in a while but, to be honest, I've never been a fan of the texture. It's hard to love that texture. And if I'm in the mood for a creamy chocolate dessert, a chocolate-flavored chia seed pudding is the last resort, quite frankly. 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on this ingenious whipped chia seed mousse recipe on The First Mess (one of my favorite blogs -- the photographs alone are worth a visit and the recipes are consistently inventive and bright). The concept is simple: combine chia seeds with high-fat ingredients (coconut butter and coconut milk), allow the mixture to set into a pudding, and blend in a high-speed blender (a Vitamix, presumably) until the pudding reaches a creamy, mousse-like consistency. It's brilliant because it solves that "mouthfeel" issue I have with chia seed puddings. (I also don't appreciate the word "mouthfeel" but there it is). 

The slight problem in all this was that I don't own a Vitamix. Shocked that a food blogger doesn't own one? Yeah, me, too. I hear they're awfully useful. I may even invest in one some day but, for now, my kitchen blender is a sad, sweet little Oster model I brought to the city with me a few years ago. I can't bear to part with it until it dies. It kept me company during a long, horrid winter upstate (sorry, Albany) and, even now, its smooth buzzing is a soothing presence when I'm up early in the morning to write or work. (By morning, I mean 5 a.m. Worst neighbor, I know, but, to be fair, I only run the coffee grinder at 5 a.m. -- never the blender.). Basically, loyalty matters. 

But I thought I could achieve a similar, if not identical, texture by first grinding the chia seeds in a coffee grinder and then preparing the pudding. I think it turned out pretty well! For a deeper coconut flavor, feel free to leave out the cacao powder. Most importantly, be patient -- give it a full 24 hours to set and become firm. It's worth the wait, I think.

And no, the edible flowers in the photos are not irrelevant to this post. It may not feel like it but a reluctant spring is here. Happy first day of spring!

Chocolate & Coconut Chia Seed Mousse (v/gf)

Adapted from The First Mess

Serves 4

1/4 cup chia seeds (black or white)

1 can full-fat coconut milk (see note)

2 tbsp coconut butter (not coconut oil)

4-5 tbsp maple syrup, to taste

1/2 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

1/3 cup cacao powder

pinch of sea salt

toppings: raw sliced almonds, raw coconut flakes/chips

Process the chia seeds in a coffee grinder for about 20 seconds or until ground to a fine powder. Whisk and set aside.

In a large food processor, process the coconut milk, coconut butter, maple syrup, the seeds of one half of a vanilla bean, and a pinch of sea salt until lightly incorporated. Add cacao powder and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides. 

Measure out 1/4 cup of the chia seed powder (you will have some left over) and add it to the food processor. Continue to process until the pudding is smooth and no clumps remain. Pour the mixture into individual ramekins or bowls. Refrigerate for a full 24 hours before serving.

To serve, toast a handful of sliced almonds and raw coconut flakes in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Careful -- both ingredients burn easily. Top the chocolate mousse with the toasted almonds and coconut. Serve. 

Note: Use full-fat coconut milk - this does not work with light coconut milk (I tried). You can also purchase milled chia seed powder but I haven't tried it with this recipe and can't vouch for it.