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Posts Tagged ‘Sorrel’

Remember the days back in college when all you needed to guarantee attendance was a sign advertising “free food”?

Well, step right up ladies and gents, have I got good news for you!  You, yes, you can have FREE salad and stewing veg all winter long — if you can identify it, that is.

It’s sprouting from every street corner, alley, empty lot, park, and even every private garden in Tel Aviv.  And most of you probably thought they were just lowly weeds.

An Anarchists’ Amblings

My good friend Moshe invited me to come along on a walking tour being hosted by Salon Mazal, an interesting place that according to Wikipedia is:

an infoshop in Tel Aviv, Israel. Its purpose is to spread information and raise awareness of issues related to social change, including human rights, animal rights, the environment, globalization, social and economic oppression, consumerism, feminism and gender issues. It is run by an open, non-hierarchical collective of volunteers at 32 Yitzhak Sadeh Street, Tel Aviv.

I had actually been inside their premises a few years ago (and two locations ago), when I had no idea who they were…and left quickly when it sank in that I was in what appeared an anarchist bookshop.  Moshe says that they’ve actually branched out from then, hosting lovely events and lectures, and that generally friendly people frequent the place.  I’ll have to drop by sometime for a better look.

Back to the veg – As I was pouring wine all day last Friday (I got to open the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, a rare treat), so I couldn’t attend the walking tour.  Lucky for me, Moshe took me on a private post-shabbat nighttime tour of central Tel Aviv’s tiny patches of green, sharing with me what he learned from the experts.  What we found astounded me.

Mallow

Hubezah - Hebrew for Mallow

Hubezah - Arabic for Mallow - חובזה in Hebrew

The mallow plant has gotten a bad wrap in modern times.  It’s been thought of as a subsistence green, a poor man’s refuge, if you catch my drift.  It used to grow just about everywhere in Israel.  In fact, I think it still does, despite the urban sprawl.  The Arab community cooks with it quite a bit, and it can be found in all of their suks.  The Jewish markets…not so much.  Luckily for us, this very easily identified plant grows everywhere…and I mean everywhere.  This is a great little article in Hebrew about mallow, and if this works, here is the googled-translation of the same story.  My friend Moshe told me to eat it like a salad green, very neutral yet pleasant taste.  The Arabs sautee it with onions, include it in stews, and I’ve seen it used to wrap other foods in (like grape leaves).

Mustard

Mustard

Slightly less obvious, but also quite plentiful is the mustard plant.  For those of you who have never eaten mustard greens, they taste like the condiment.  They really do.  Somewhat brighter, sometimes more spicy, even.  And this bold flavor is marvelous for cooking.  Moshe, who I might add is a vegan, recommended that it also be eaten raw.  Fine for some.  In the States I bought mustard greens when I could find them (the first time was a mistake…I’m a sucker for strange veg I’ve never tried before).  Great for stewing, steaming, sauteing. “Southern greens,” you know the kind that are stewed and drenched in fats and seasonings of all sorts indeed include mustard.  Even the flowers are good, spicier than the rest of the plant.

Sorrel

Sorrel with the lovely sour yellow flowers

My new favorite green!  I’ve already written about this green extensively, and now I don’t even have to hunt it down in the markets…it’s right out front!  With delicate little leaves that look like flat folded clover, the stems are sturdy and snap crunchily when you bite into them as the lemony sour taste pours into your mouth.  Lovely!  Every part of this plant is edible – leaf, stem, flower.  All sour.  It packs great punch in a salad, and as I’ve demonstrated a few times this year, it’s extremely wonderful in soups and stews.

There are a few more edible greens in my public urban garden, according to Moshe, but they are more difficult to identify and are supposedly far more boring in flavor.  For now, I’m going to stick to these three and see if I can come up with a creative recipe with them.

If I have the guts to go foraging, I’m going to have free soup and free stew and free stir-fry all winter long.  You should try it too.  Just wash these greens very, very, very well.  You’ve got a good imagination, you can figure out why…

Moshe munching on sorrel

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Check out this cool blog I found on the New York Times called “The Urban Forager”

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The gorgeousness that is sorrel

It looks like spinach but tastes NOTHING like it.  A sour, delicate leaf, perfect in soups and stews as it has a remarkable thickening quality while retaining its vibrant taste.  Spinach cannot compare.  I don’t know why the whole world isn’t cuckoo for sorrel.  In fact, I’m hoping to start a trend here.  People, if you haven’t tried it, take my word for it, you simply must.  Period.  With the scents that were wafting out of the kitchen, we knew we had one legendary meal in the making.

Today, after a rather frustrating morning of heavy work, I boarded the bus to Jerusalem, on a whim.  One of my favorite friends, the lovely queendeb, resides there on the border of Baka and Talpiot (although she only admits to Talpiot). We don’t get together as often as we should, and as two creative food-minded people, we decided on a cooking project.  I brought the sorrel and a bottle of Israeli-Champagne (GHW’s Gamla Brut).  In her quirky kosher kitchen (with her little brother in NYC on video-Skype the entire time), we proceeded in what felt like an adventurous cooking show.  Here’s what became of our evening:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small celery root, chopped
  • 1 yam, chopped
  • 500 g chicken wings
  • 1 bunch sorrel, 1/2 chopped, 1/2 left whole
  • handful of cilantro stems, chopped
  • 3-4 small celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 white cabbage, cut into large in-tact wedges
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 finely chopped, 1/2 in strips
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 shot Laphroaig Whisky
  • chipotle pepper to taste
  • pepper, garlic powder, chili, etc to taste
  1. In a large soup pot over high heat, drizzle olive oil, then brown the chicken wings.  Remove.
  2. Whisk together the mustard and soy sauce.
  3. With the fat of the chicken left behind, add the onion, garlic, celery root, and yams (in that order – waiting a minute between additions).  Cook at medium heat until sweating/softened.  Add mustard/soy sauce.
  4. Layer the chicken wings evenly over the vegetables.  Then sprinkle the chopped sorrel, chopped celery & celery leaves, and cilantro stems evenly over the chicken.
  5. Sprinkle chipotle pepper over the surface.
  6. Create a layer with the whole sorrel leaves spread flat.  Place the cabbage wedges over the sorrel evenly.
  7. Pour the whisky over the contents of the entire pot.  Allow to cook for a few minutes to let the alcohol evaporate.
  8. Sprinkle all the lemon zest, and pour lemon juice over the contents of the pot.
  9. Without stirring, slowly and carefully pour two glasses of water into the pot.
  10. Bring to a boil, reduce flame to lowest possible, cover and let simmer for 30-60 minutes.  Do not stir, but checking to ensure the bottom layer isn’t burning is fine.  Add pepper, spices, etc at the end, to taste.
  11. Serve over couscous or rice.

The resulting stew-y casserole was pure heaven.  Rich, smoky, sour, spiced.  The smoky qualities of both the Laphroaig and the chipotle pepper, combined with the tartness of the sorrel and the lemon components, were so complementary, it was wild!  All the veg fell apart, becoming almost caramel-like.  The sorrel indeed thickened things up, and oh me, oh my, the lemon zest was a joy in and of itself!  The layering method came about organically, in that we thought it would be interesting to allow the leafier veg to steam in the lovely saucy broth of the layers beneath it.  And what can I say of the chicken?  It fell off the bone.  So tender.  So moist.  So perfect.

The best part was, even though we didn’t know where we’d end up, we always knew we could do it.  Two savvy seasoned cooks with random well-loved ingredients having a ball.  The bubbly went great with the meal, and I’m so glad we drank it.  This meal was a shining beacon in the middle of a drab work week.  So, it’s a yes to letting loose!  A yes to drinking your best wine for no reason but to enjoy it in the here and now!  And a resounding yes to sorrel! To single malt scotches everywhere! To lemon rinds!  To chipotle! L’chaim, l’chaim to life!

And I’ve driven myself into the cheesy corner.  But it really felt like that.  A meal as a celebration.  Even with just a couple lonesome American-Israeli friends.  Especially because.

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