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. 


Spring Vegetable Frittata w/Pea Shoot Salad

by Maja Lukic


It sort of feels like spring, by which I mean, it's almost warm outside and there are yellow daffodils near my office. To be fair, there have been signs of a new season in the market for quite some time: fresh peas, fresh asparagus, delicate herbs, sorrel, all manner of lettuces and greens, spring onions, new potatoes, and green beans. (This is also the year that I am determined to move beyond my standard pink radishes and conquer ramps, baby artichokes, and fiddlehead ferns).

But I felt pretty listless and uninspired a few weeks ago and I took an extended break from the kitchen/blogging. I find that a break and a change of focus can spur creativity and renewed interest sometimes. I went on vacation and when I came back, the city was a lot brighter, a little warmer. It's not quite there yet but with the sunshine and warmer air, I'm starting to feel excited about cooking again. Because, really, now that winter is over, I'm in for six or seven months of Saturday morning trips to the farmers' market and lazy Sunday night dinners. To prepare, I've been rereading Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy  and other vegetable-minded books. And before you ask, yes, I do have the new Deborah Madison cookbook The New Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, which features over 1600 new (to me) vegetarian recipes and weighs about sixty pounds. (Look, I'm a huge nerd.). 

I walked into the kitchen one Sunday morning, grabbed a cast-iron skillet and some fresh vegetables and pulled together a delicious frittata brunch in about 30 minutes. I like lazy, spontaneous meals like this. 

This is a delicious frittata, notwithstanding the lack of cheese (though some of you may argue that cheese is vital and, if that is the case for you, go ahead and add some cheese to your frittata). The texture is perfect and has a clean cut. And because I tend to underbake it, it remains moist. Dry eggs are a sin. 

It's also a flexible, adaptable recipe -- feel free to substitute other vegetables or herbs for the ones listed here. Despite its claim to spring and fresh vegetables, it's kind of a pantry meal even if you don't have access to fresh produce. Frozen sweet peas taste sweeter, in my opinion, so if you only have frozen peas, use frozen peas. If you don't have fresh herbs, try dried oregano or herbes de provence. (And frozen asparagus or frozen green beans are decent substitutes for fresh asparagus but fresh asparagus is everywhere right now). The lemon zest is my secret ingredient and it makes the whole thing shine -- please don't leave it out. 

And pea shoots. Pea shoots are lovely. If I'm using peas in a dish, I typically try to include pea shoots as well. Pea shoots are the delicate leaves and tendrils from pea plants (any variety) and are distinguishable from pea sprouts by their longer, more mature stems and leaves. They're flavorful, nutrient dense, and widely available this time of year. I like to dress them simply with a burst of lemon juice, a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and some good salt. 

Before you go, I have some interesting/absurd/exciting blog news. My Mushroom Socca w/Rosemary and Blistered Tomatoes is featured in the April issue of the Russian edition of Saveurs. It's a French magazine and I don't think it's available in the USA but if you find yourself walking the streets of Moscow (or Paris) without any reading material, please pick up a copy. 

Spring Vegetable Frittata with Pea Shoot Salad (gf)

Makes 1  10.25" frittata (serves 4-6 approx.)

Frittata:

1 tbsp avocado oil (or other cooking oil)

1 large shallot, sliced crosswise into rings 

1 lb. asparagus (approx. 1 bunch)

1 cup fresh shucked peas (or frozen peas)

6 large eggs

1 tbsp fresh chives, minced

1 tsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped

3/4 tsp sea salt

1 lemon, zest only

Salad:

4-5 cups fresh pea shoots

olive oil

lemon juice

sea salt, black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 F degrees (or turn on broiler). 

Trim the asparagus and slice diagonally into 1-inch pieces. If using fresh peas, rinse and drain the peas. 

Heat a cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet) over medium heat. Saute the shallot and asparagus in the avocado oil with 1/4 tsp sea salt until cooked through and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the peas. If using fresh peas, saute for a few minutes until the peas are cooked through. If using frozen peas, move on to the next step. Stir in the zest of 1 lemon. Save the rest of the lemon to dress the salad below.

While the vegetables are cooking, whisk the eggs with 1/2 tsp salt and add the fresh herbs. Add the beaten eggs to the skillet and stir the vegetables a bit to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Cook over medium heat until the eggs are just set, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Move the frittata to the oven and either broil or bake at 450 F degrees until cooked through, about 5 minutes. For a crispier top, you can continue to cook until the frittata is browned and caramelized. (I like to pull it out earlier so that the eggs do not dry out. Also, the eggs will continue to cook in the pan.). 

Allow the frittata to cool a bit and then gently loosen the edges and the bottom with a heat-proof spatula. Transfer the frittata to a serving platter. (You can try to slide it out and hope it stays intact. But the best way to do this is to grab two plates, cover the skillet with the first plate, carefully flip the skillet over, and then cover the first plate with a second plate and flip again.). 

Dress the pea shoots with a squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil, to taste. Season with a healthy sprinkle of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Toss with your hands.

To serve, arrange about a cup of pea shoots on each plate and top with a slice of frittata. Serve with a dollop of harissa, crème fraîche, or other condiment of choice, and more fresh chives. 

Leftover frittata can be stored in the fridge and can be served either cold or at room temperature. Avoid reheating.

Note: I use a 10.25-inch cast iron skillet for 6 eggs and about 3 cups of vegetables. For a heartier frittata, add two more eggs. You can either bake or broil the frittata to finish it off (I tend to bake because my broiler is unreliable).