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. 


Shaved Fennel Persimmon & Walnut Salad

by Maja Lukic


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Perhaps it's because I've been more sedentary than usual or perhaps it's the brutal onslaught of ice and snow but I've had this craving for fresh winter salads. After a few days of fantasizing about light and healthy but seasonal dishes, I grabbed some fennel and a handful of persimmons and got to work.

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The result is a salad plate that shines with bright flavors and vibrant colors. The gorgeous orange color of the persimmons is visually uplifting and eases the lack of sunlight, the vast expanse of gray skies, and the distinct sensation that everything has assumed a sort of lifeless quality. (I may be struggling with some seasonal blues). The walnut oil and toasted walnuts ground the salad -- it is winter, after all -- and tone down the strong anise flavor of the raw fennel. The arugula is probably an optional component. Leave it in, leave it out -- I think the salad also works pretty well without it.  

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There was a time, not too long ago, when I couldn't stand the taste of raw fennel. In fact, I thought fennel was inedible unless roasted or braised into oblivion. Totally misguided! Raw fennel, sliced thinly into delicate wisps and paired with a bright vinaigrette and contrasting ingredients such as sweet ripe fruit and toasted nuts, is amazing in a salad. As with all things, I'm late to the party. If you're really into raw fennel salads, check out these other interesting variations on the theme: Celery, Apple, and Fennel Slaw, Fennel and Blood Orange Salad, and Shaved Fennel Salad

Persimmons are a recent obsession of mine. This pretty coral fruit has a sweet flavor that falls somewhere in between an apple and butternut squash and is amazingly healthy -- some label it a superfood but I'm not a fan of that word. 

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Because I'm still psychologically scarred from a singular experience with an underripe Hachiya persimmon, I would recommend that you choose the Fuyu varietal for this salad. The Fuyu (pictured throughout) is distinguished by its flat bottom and squash shape and sort of resembles an orange tomato. The Fuyu can be eaten while still firm. The heart-shaped Hachiya has a pointy bottom and a deep orange-red color. If not fully ripened, it imparts a horrible astringent and furry taste and is basically inedible. If you've never had the experience, I can confidently tell you that it's not a great sensation in the mouth. (For what it's worth, the Hachiya is more appropriate for baking/roasting anyway). But persimmons are wonderful little fruits and a welcome seasonal ingredient.

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One final note: I'm still adjusting to my new camera and lens -- which I love -- so if the photos look slightly off, I apologize and promise it will only get better from here. Which is to say, please keep checking back!

Shaved Fennel, Persimmon, and Walnut Salad w/Lemon-Walnut Vinaigrette (v/gf)

Serves 2

For the salad

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced paper thin

2 persimmons, sliced paper thin

2-3 cups arugula 

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Lemon-Walnut Vinaigrette

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tbsp maple syrup (or more to taste)

2 tbsp toasted walnut oil

sea salt

Prepare the Lemon-Walnut Vinaigrette by whisking together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and walnut oil. Taste and sweeten with additional maple syrup, to taste.

Toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly fragrant. 

Slice the fennel and persimmons thinly in a food processor or with a sharp knife. For the fennel, cut off the stalks and trim the ends. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise, remove the core (save for snacking), and slice the fennel crosswise into paper thin wisps. For the persimmons, cut them in half lengthwise and slice thinly into half moons.  

In a large salad bowl, toss the shaved fennel with half of the vinaigrette and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the persimmons, arugula, and walnuts to the fennel. Gently toss the salad with as much of the remaining vinaigrette as you'd like and season lightly with sea salt. Serve immediately.

Note: Slice the fennel and persimmons as thinly as possible. I have a dim view of mandolines so I would recommend a food processor with a shredding/slicing attachment or a sharp knife and some patience. About an eighth of an inch or thinner is best for both the fennel and the persimmons. You may substitute the walnut oil with olive oil, avocado oil, or a different nut oil.