I trotted on down to the Farmers’ Market like a good little French housewife last Sunday morning in search of petite bebe turnips and carrots destined for JOOOLIA’s Navarin Printanier that I was making that evening. Clearly, the market is the place to be. Not only did I manage to find the profligate baby vegetables I needed, I also bumped into a good percentage of my address book out hunting for ramps and other early spring goodies.
Joe, a regular denizen of the market, had cased the joint far more thoroughly than I and was all set to throw down our latest challenge to the tune of blood sorrel. Naturally game, I accepted and found myself holding a bag of slightly alien-looking red-veined leaves. Though their appearance suggests small, delicate beet greens, their stridently acidic flavor identifies them very much as sorrel. This lemony bite is due to oaxalic acid–poisonous in large quantities, but harmless in small amounts. Fortunately, I only had about 10 oz of the stuff, so I felt fairly confident that I’d not be able to kill anyone with it.
Since I couldn’t use the sorrel as a weapon, it seems I’d have to make dinner with it. There’s not much out there on sorrel in general, and NOTHING on this particularly dramatic-looking variety. It has a rougher texture than the common sorrel used to make soups in Eastern Europe, and I wanted to take advantage of the blood sorrel’s good looks anyway. Salad seemed like a cop-out, and though Mr. T. suggested tempura (having been converted to it in Japan), the thought of deep frying leaves seemed like a lot of work for not much payoff.
Despite its vibrant acidity, the sorrel also possesses an earthy dimension as well. Thinking back to my initial color comparison, it occurred to me that beets were also quite earthy, though as sweet as the sorrel is sour. I figured that building on that contrast would be nice, so I planned out a restaurant-style entree of sauteed halibut on a bed of wilted sorrel that would get topped with a bright mixture of diced beet, capers, and parsley. The beets, made sprightly with good vinegar and shallots, played well with the sorrel and both added depth and dimension to the luxurious white-fleshed fish. Had I had them, a few creamy fingerling potatoes tossed into the mix would not have been unwelcome, but even as is, the finished dish was elegantly balanced and very tasty indeed.
Halibut with Blood Sorrel & Beet “Gremolata”
1 medium beet
1 small shallot
1 tsp capers
2 tbs champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tbs minced parsley
2 1/3lb halibut filets
1/3 c flour
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs canola oil
1 tsp unsalted butter
10 oz blood sorrel
Cook the beet. Either wrap in foil and toss in a 350 degree F oven till tender and easily pierced with a knife (about 50 minutes), or drop whole into a steamer basket over boiling water and steam for till tender (about 35 minutes). If steaming, watch the water level, and top off if necessary.
Transfer beet to a cutting board and, once cool enough to handle, slide off the skin and dice evenly into 1/4″ pieces. Put in a medium bowl. Peel the shallot and cut in half. Slice paper thin and pull apart over the bowl of beets. Rinse and drain the capers, adding them to the bowl. Toss with the champagne vinegar and season lightly with salt and pepper. Roughly chop the parsley and sprinkle into the bowl, but don’t mix it in. Set aside.
In a shallow dish, season flour with salt and pepper and stir with a fork to combine evenly. In a small saute pan combine the oil and butter over medium high heat. Pat the halibut dry and cut into serving pieces if need be. Dredge the fish lightly in the flour mixture, shaking vigorously to remove the excess. Slide the fish, skin side up into the pan and cook for ~3 min, until nicely browned. Flip the fish over and cook an additional 3-4 min till cooked through. This will depend on how thick the filets are. Remove fish to a plate.
Keep the pan on the stove, and add the cleaned and trimmed blood sorrel. Immediately turn the heat OFF. Add a pinch of sea salt and toss the sorrel with tongs til wilted slightly–it should be in the pan less than a minute. Divide sorrel between two warmed plates and place the fish on top. Spoon the beet mixture over the fish and serve immediately.