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Springtime greens

I Believe I Can Fry
Collard greens

Prowling through the markets this past week, I was pleased to see a wide variety of greens showing up. This week I'd like to talk about several in particular that may not be in your regular arsenal. Chef Jerry Pellegrino agrees with me in thinking that things like sorrel, arugula, and Belgian endive deserve a lot of attention.

The first one I want to discuss is sorrel, beloved in France, almost unknown in this country. This is puzzling, because sorrel has a pleasant distinct flavor, and is easy to use in cooking and it grows well here.

There are three kinds of sorrel: broadleaf, French, and red-veined. The plant is a winter-hardy perennial and it grows with just the slightest encouragement. The plant constantly produces new leaves from the center, so it stays active during all of the warm months. However the late summer leaves are very bitter, and so you might want to concentrate on it during the spring months.

Sorrel has a strikingly unique flavor. Call it bright lemon, wild strawberry or

kiwi, it always suggests fresh acidic flavor that is best used as a complement to other leafy greens rather than as a stand-alone salad component.

But the baby leaves, harvested early in the spring are mild enough to be added raw into any mixture of salad greens you want. The older, larger more mature leaves can be very strongly flavored, and so the must be cooked. Around the world, sorrel is used in soups and stews, even in curries.

The French have perfected sorrel soup, if fact at the famous 3-Michelin-Star restaurant La Tour D'Argent, it is one of the featured dishes.

To make the soup, be sure to use larger more flavorful leaves, since the baby leaves will be to mild to make much impact. And you'll need lots of them. We'll provide a full recipe, but the essence is you cook your chopped sorrel leaves with spring onion, add chicken stock and finish with cream and a dollop of butter. Very simple and very tasty.

Arugula, once seen as a trendy green, has become a well-established regular in our cuisine. However it is fairly rare to see arugula in anything but a salad. True, raw arugula has an outstanding fresh peppery flavor and a light delicate texture that make it a featured player. But for cooking purposes, why not consider it just another kind of spinach?

A good example might be an arugula/bacon soup. Working with a vegetable broth, you cook the arugula with onions and garlic, add some spices, especially a whiff of cayenne, and a dollop of cream, then stir in crumbled bacon.

In a similar vein, try gently sautéing arugula with chopped red peppers, onions, garlic and chopped Brussels sprouts. The spectrum of flavors will be astonishing. Just be sure to add the arugula last so that you don't over-cook it.

And it's a no-brainer to substitute arugula for basil in your favorite pesto recipe. A couple cooks I came across recommend using walnuts rather than pine nuts.

Belgian endives, shaped like little pale green torpedoes, also seem to have a lock on their own distinctive flavor. Because of their tight structure, endives have been put to the flame since the get-go. Thus, braised or grilled endives have become very popular, and they are so sturdy that you can carefully caramelize them.

Endive's distinctive flavor changes with cooking. Eaten raw, the endive has a mildly bitter flavor that is mitigated by the fresh, crisp, moist texture of the flesh. But when you cook them, they go sweet on you and develop a more nutty flavor. Regardless, either raw or cooked, they cry out for tangy dressings or piquant sauces.

Lots of folks use the endive leaves like little canoes that you can stuff with tasty fillers. But let's be a little more ambitious and talk about endive and ham gratin. This is a simple dish. Just wrap whole baked endives with thin slices of prosciutto ham, cover with a béchamel sauce and sprinkle grated gruyere cheese on top. A half hour in a 350° oven ought to do the trick.

French Sorrel Soup


4 tbs unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped green onions

4-6 cups of chopped sorrel, packed


3 tbs flour

1 quart chicken stock

2egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Melt 3 tbs butter in a large sauce pan. Add the green onions and reduce heat. Cover and cook gently for 10 minutes.

2. Pour the chicken stock into another sauce pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

3. Add the sorrel leaves to the onions along with a pinch of salt and stir well. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

4. Remove a small portion of the broth and pour into a small cup. Stir in the flour to make a slurry. When the flour has been well blended whisk it into the sorrel and onion mixture.

5. Whisk the hot stock into the sorrel and onion mixture, stirring constantly. Bring it to a simmer.

6. Finally, whisk together the egg yolks and cream. In order to incorporate them into the soup, the eggs and cream need to be tempered, so as to avoid scrambling.

Slowly add a little of the hot soup into the egg and cream mixture, stirring constantly. Do this three times, without stopping the stirring. When the egg mixture is warm, you can pour it into the soup, stirring constantly. Keep warm at a simmering temperature.

May 3 #2026 Artichokes

As the days grow warmer and Maryland farms start harvesting more and more produce, we begin to see old friends return to the market. One vegetable that has a loyal following is the artichoke. Chef Jerry Pellegrino has told us, once you learn how to cook this little gem, you're in for a lifetime of pleasure.

For a little background, Jerry has found two excellent articles.

Here’s a great article about the different varieties of artichokes: https://www.homestratosphere.com/types-of-artichokes/

Here’s a great start to learning about artichokes: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cook_and_eat_an_artichoke/

And here is a classic recipe for stuffed artichokes.

Stuffed artichokes – serves four

4 artichokes cleaned as described in the above article

For the stuffing:

2 cups breadcrumbs

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 lemon zest and juice

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup Italian parsley, chopped

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Before putting the artichokes in the steamer, place each one in the bowl and working from the center of the artichoke outwards pull apart the leaves and sprinkle the stuffing into the spaces.

Continue to do all four artichokes and until you’ve used all the stuffing. Steam as above and enjoy!