Saturday, April 24, 2010

Food Friday…Cream of Sorrel Soup

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Something wonderful happens when friends gather to cook.    Together we become more than the sum of our parts. We dream (Food Friday goes to France) we plan (Cable TV show?!) we share.   We eat and talk and mostly we have fun and when I leave a food Friday I’m invincible.  My friends have convinced me.

Food is love and that is never more apparent than on Food Friday.

We’ve changed our focus a bit.  Food Friday has become a culinary classroom.  We’re using Mastering the Art of French Cooking as our text and have recently mastered poached eggs (fresh is best) and  pastry shells (keep it cold).  This week we tackled soufflés and soup and each week we challenge ourselves to try something new…Like sorrel.

Sorrel.  I’ve heard of it…had a vague notion that it’s green and…that’s about it.  I briefly pondered how an entire greens family could have escaped my notice for so long.  Rebecca from Persephone Farms convinced me I had to try it so I dutifully bought some and came home to flip through cookbooks.  I nibbled the end of a leaf and wow...the flavors are bright and tart but what really surprised me is that I know this flavor.  It’s unique and powerful and earned a place in my taste memory when I was a kid.  We called it “sourgrass” and it grows wild all over the place. 

I did a little research and it turns out, the sourgrass of my childhood is sheep sorrel and can be used in soups, salads and tarts, just like the culinary sorrel you can buy at the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market right now!

Larry from the Suquamish farmer’s market  (Wednesday from 3-6)sold me a plant and the idea of sorrel soup.  He used to run the cafe at Bainbridge Gardens and makes the best gazpacho I’ve ever tasted to I took his advice.  Many of his recipes originate with Julia so I went to our text.

Ms. Child’s says “This is a lovely soup, and a perfect one for an important dinner.”  I love that, the whole idea of entertaining “important” people at home. 

This soup is indeed elegant and charming.  It’s rich with bright flavor, smoothed out with some fresh cream.   Elaine our expert on all things French just closed her eyes and sighed,  “I’ve been waiting for this.”

We all had seconds.

Potage Crème d’Oseille

From: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1/3 cup minced green or yellow onions

3 tablespoons butter

3-4 packed cups of fresh Sorrel leaves and tender stems washed, dried in a towel and cut into chiffonade (thin slices or shreds).

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons of flour

5 1/2 cup boiling chicken stock

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup whipping cream

1-2 tablespoons softened butter


Cook the onions slowly in butter in a covered saucepan for 5-10 minutes, until tender and translucent but not browned.

Stir in sorrel and salt, cover, cook slowly for about five minutes or until the leaves are tender and wilted.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.

Off heat, beat the boiling stock.  Simmer for five minutes.

Blend the yolks and cream in a mixing bowl.  Beat a cupful of hot soup into them by dribbles.  Gradually beat in the rest of the soup in a thick stream.  Return soup to a saucepan an stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to poach the eggs yolk. but do not bring the soup to the simmer.  Off heat stir  in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time.

Pour the soup in a tureen or soup cups and decorate with optional sorrel leaves.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Farm Fresh

The corner of my parent’s vegetable garden has, for as long as I can remember, been home to a venerable old rhubarb plant.  When I was small, I’d sneak some, choosing the smaller stalks so my mom wouldn’t notice.  She never called me on it but I got a few helpful discussions about removing the poisonous leaves to the compost bin, so I’m pretty sure she was onto me. 

lizzie's arugula 002

Today I found Elizabeth in the greenhouse harvesting arugula.  We’d planted it together a month or so ago and it’s hers, but still she froze in that sort of “am I allowed to do this?” way that children do when they explore and adventure on their own.  Her plants are strong and healthy and I told her so and offered to get her a bowl to contain her harvest.  A few minutes later we sat side by side on the deck eating arugula fresh from my 4 year-old’s garden.

lizzie's arugula 006

It was heaven.

So, I realize that not only did my mom know what I was up to in the rhubarb patch, it made her happy.  And that makes me happy.  So I guess I could say that rhubarb makes me happy.  Whenever I see it, I’m reminded of those sunny spring mornings when I’d raid the garden and to this day I’m especially fond of rhubarb jam and rhubarb pie. 

On Saturday the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s market opened with music, a dog and pony (miniature horse to be specific) show, and loads of island grown produce, bread, jam, and plants.  I bought two beautiful lilac trees; gray with lichen, farm fresh eggs,  plants for my vegetable garden and two pounds of rhubarb.

I roasted the rhubarb with wine and sugar and a vanilla bean using this recipe from Molly at Orangette.   Hollind made this at our last food Friday and it’s so delicious I had to have a batch for myself.  Molly’s recipe makes enough filling for four mini-pies.

 mini pies 040

Elizabeth and I have a date to plant lettuce and sorrel now, she’s waiting for me in the garden.

See you tomorrow at the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Grilled Oysters

It seems that you either love oysters or hate them.  I’m in the first camp while my esteemed husband is firmly in the latter. As marital discord goes, this is fairly minor but it seems that most of my oyster consumption occurs when Ross is absent.  As infidelity goes, this too is fairly minor but I do try to be discreet.

Spring Break 093

So, when spring break arrived and Ross had a big meeting to prepare for, the kids and I retired to our rustic (emphasis here) cottage on the coast leaving Ross behind on the island.  The road to the coast passes acres of oyster beds and Copalis Beach is known as the razor clam capital of the world.  We arrived and unpacked, visions of sandcastles, beach fires and shellfish dancing in our heads.

But it was not to be, winter storms rolled in.  One day turned into two and before I knew it three days had passed with no break from the damp weather.  There comes a time when you begin to look for signs (you know…from above) and start making deals with yourself about how many more times you can listen to the Dora theme song before you break.  In my case the sign arrived in the form of an A-board advertising four dozen oysters for 20 dollars.

Turns out the kids favor their dad and aren’t oyster fans either.  Calls of Yuck! and I’m not eating those! accompanied my bargaining but I’d been tuning them out for days so it was easy to ignore them.

One woman…four dozen oysters…

Where to begin?

Spring Break 097

I’m no fan of shucking so when we got back to the cottage and Dora and Backpack took over with the kids, I lit the grill.  Oysters poached in their shell are plump and moist and depending on how you like them, just a bit jiggly.  They’re also fast.  Ten minutes and you’re enjoying piping hot, juicy oysters.  They need no embellishment but I suppose you could dribble them with Tobasco or dredge them in melted butter.

When you’ve got four dozen oysters and some time on your hands you get some pretty good practice in pairing.  One of my absolute favorites is grilled oysters and radishes.  Get a nice fresh baguette from Pane d’Amore, some salted organic butter and lovely, dewy, radishes.  Slice the baguette and spread with butter (this is not the time to be worrying about calories…really slather it on) top with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkle of smoked sea salt.


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As for wine…oysters are notoriously difficult to pair but we have some of the best shellfish wines in the world right here on Bainbridge Island.  I didn’t have the foresight to buy wine in advance of my oyster fest but I have it on good authority that I would have been quite happy with a bottle of Perennial Vintner’s Melon de Bourgogne

Kim Hendrickson, organizer of the upcoming New Releases Celebration and Wine Tasting in Downtown Winslow on April 24th, says, “I like this homegrown version of muscadet so much I'm organizing a shellfish tent around it.” You can read about the wine by clicking here Bainbridge Wine Weekend.

Grilled Oysters

Light grill and allow it to heat.  When the internal temp is 350 or above place the rinsed oysters, cup side down and close the lid.  Wait six minutes and take a peek.  If any have opened remove them, and those that are smaller.  Close grill for two more minutes and then remove any remaining oysters.  You may have to do some prying but you want to get them off the heat while they are still juicy.


Monday, April 5, 2010


When you live on an island things are just different.  For instance, it wasn’t until I moved to Bainbridge that I could have conceived of an Easter on-the-water balloon chase in tiny sailboats.  One day, not long after we’d bought our charming but decrepit farmhouse and while still very much in the throes of “oh wow, we live on an island” we watched this distinctive island scene unfold. This was BK (before kids) and Easter Sunday meant a long brunch on the deck enjoying our newly acquired view.

Happy sounds drifted across the bay.  An event was in progress at the Port Madison Yacht Club.  Before long a fleet of sailing dinghies launched and a hundred balloons  skittered across the water.  The dinghies raced along, life-jacketed kids scooping wayward balloons.  Parents cheered from the club dock and I suspect a bit of smack talk between the adult skippers (but here I embroider as I wasn’t close enough to hear.)

Yesterday a dozen years after that first wonderful glimpse into the uniqueness of island life, we are the parents shouting encouragement while our life-jacketed kids hang precariously over the side of a swiftly moving vessel scooping up jelly bean filled balloons.  We had front row seats for the action from the rescue boat. Our mission was to scoop up wet kids (none) and runaway balloons (a few and it’s much harder than it looks), but mostly we sat back and enjoyed the ride, feeling like we’d been granted admission inside a particularly beautiful snow globe (no snow, just the magic of being inside something so rare and wonderful). 

After the excitement, the chocolate bunnies, the egg-toss (this two-year reigning champ was unseated by an eight year old) we dinghied back across the bay for an Easter dinner of grilled oysters and steamer clams, fresh baguettes and a crunchy salad.  More on the oysters soon.

Sadly I have no pictures to share with you.  My camera and I have been having some technical difficulties.  Would love to hear about your unique island experiences if you’d like share.