Monday, June 18, 2007
This big bunch of red-ribbed leaves caught my eye yesterday at the stand of Jean-Louis and Katy, whose organic produce at the Cours Saleya market is consistently fresh and beautiful. I thought it might be a kind of chicory, or perhaps baby beet leaves, but Katy told me matter-of-factly that it was a type of sorrel. "You eat it raw, in salads," she said.
I previously knew sorrel only as a big, slightly floppy green leaf that loses its vivid color as soon as it comes into contact with heat. I love it for its lemony tang, particularly in my simplified version of the Troisgros classic saumon à l'oseille (I promise to share the recipe here one of these days), but have always watched in despair as the bright-tasting leaves turn a muddy green. Not only was this ruby variety even prettier than ordinary sorrel, it didn't involve any aesthetic compromise. There was only one bunch left so I grabbed it before any sharp-eyed chefs came along.
At home, I nibbled on a leaf and recognised the sharp taste of sorrel, without the tooth-stripping feeling that comes from a high concentration of oxalic acid (this is what makes it hard to eat garden variety sorrel raw). I had a few of Pierre's multicolored tomatoes left and decided to use the sorrel as a lemony accent in another salad of tomato chunks, this time with grassy Baux-de-Provence olive oil and a very small splash of balsamic vinegar. I'm not a big believer in using balsamic vinegar indiscriminately, but here I felt that its sweetness would balance the sorrel's tart quality. A good sprinkling of fleur de sel and my simple but refreshing salad was complete.
I'll be mixing the rest of the sorrel in with other young salad greens and perhaps cutting it into thin strips to garnish a soup - I know it's summer, but I think that anytime is a good time to eat soup. There is so much left that I might even try cooking with it, just to see if the leaves can retain some of their gorgeous color.