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Sorrel substitute


ChrisTaylor
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To the best of my knowledge, I've never had sorrel. All I know of it comes from books. I don't remember seeing it for sale locally and, given that my car is going to be sitting in a mechanic's garage for the next week, I don't intend to go on a road trip to find it. What I'm looking is something I can use instead of sorrel. I did a quick Google search and the first couple of sites I found listed half a dozen things, such as spinach, that don't really seem much like the description of sorrel in Davidson's book or Larousse.

Now, for context, what I want to make is the 'sour cream, sorrel, smoked salmon, pink pepper' dish from the Alinea cookbook. The ingredients are pretty much, well, that and a little bit of salt and some kosher salt.

Suggestions?

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Too, speaking of that dish, the text says 'pink peppercorns.' It doesn't say if they should be fresh or dried. The pink peppercorns I've seen for sale are dried, not that I've had reason to buy them until now. And yet he talks about removing their skins. And in the photo they really don't look dried at all. Are fresh pink peppercorns avaliable in the US? At all? Will freshly ground pink peppercorns do?

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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There are several different types of sorrel with different leaf shapes. I grow traditional (schav), red-veined and buckler leaved.

Sorrel is really quite acid, as the leaves contain mildly poisonous oxalic acid. Spinach plus some acidity (lemon juice or a good white vinegar) would substitute. However inevitably the would be not quite the same, but then you would be making your own version of the dish,

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Looking at the recipe it dawned on me that I wouldn't end up with the dish pictured in the photo--my best hope was to stay true to the idea. Be inspired rather than bound. I've heard that spinach and lemon juice are a fair substitute but I don't know if I want to go adding liquid to the mixture.

The recipe involves combining sour cream with a small amount of salt and simple syrup and then freezing small dollops of this onto a frozen griddle (which can be made at home using something made out of stainless steel and dry-ice--I'm tempted to see if something that retains temp well, like my cast iron grill pan, can be thrown into a really cold freezer for a few hours to be rendered cold enough to freeze small quantities of stuff put on its surface [only one way to find out, right?] or if I can just carefully freeze the sour cream portions in my freezer). The sorrel leaves are carefully poked into the sour cream dollops, as they freeze, and held there until they are frozen in place. The skins of the peppercorns are dusted over this, along with grated frozen smoked salmon. That's pretty much the extent of the dish.

I can buy many different greens but I also have a few in my garden possibly worth looking at: mustard greens, watercress, rocket.

I have a couple of days to experiment with the dish before I serve it up. I might experiment using, say, something from my vegetable garden, maybe some spinach and maybe even seeing if I can sub the pinks for Sichuans.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Looking at the recipe it dawned on me that I wouldn't end up with the dish pictured in the photo--my best hope was to stay true to the idea. Be inspired rather than bound. I've heard that spinach and lemon juice are a fair substitute but I don't know if I want to go adding liquid to the mixture.

The recipe involves combining sour cream with a small amount of salt and simple syrup and then freezing small dollops of this onto a frozen griddle (which can be made at home using something made out of stainless steel and dry-ice--I'm tempted to see if something that retains temp well, like my cast iron grill pan, can be thrown into a really cold freezer for a few hours to be rendered cold enough to freeze small quantities of stuff put on its surface [only one way to find out, right?] or if I can just carefully freeze the sour cream portions in my freezer). The sorrel leaves are carefully poked into the sour cream dollops, as they freeze, and held there until they are frozen in place. The skins of the peppercorns are dusted over this, along with grated frozen smoked salmon. That's pretty much the extent of the dish.

I can buy many different greens but I also have a few in my garden possibly worth looking at: mustard greens, watercress, rocket.

I have a couple of days to experiment with the dish before I serve it up. I might experiment using, say, something from my vegetable garden, maybe some spinach and maybe even seeing if I can sub the pinks for Sichuans.

One of the problems I see with using cast-iron is it's porousness, which might lead to the product getting stuck. Porcelain coated cast iron might work better or even putting the stainless steel pan on top of the cast iron so you can get some heat transfer.

Sorrel says lemon to me, while mustard greens say mustard and watercress and arugula say pepper. Changing the dish might create a combination that is more appealing to you so I'd go for it.

You can find fresh pink peppercorns (not a "true" peppercorn by the way) but they tend to be very expensive and he uses not only the skins but a whole one in the dish.

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It's a mild, lemon-y green. Chard with lemon juice comes closest to the flavor profile, IMO. Lemon verbena or lemon balm are also similar. For the purposes of your recipe, with the green poked into frozen sour cream (which I'm trying to imagine), lemon verbena or lemon balm might be good bets. Of the possibilities that you mention, spinach is too strong-flavored (also differently flavored), and watercress, arugula and mustard greens are too peppery without that lemon-y taste. Sorrel can turn an unattractive khaki color when cooked, so maybe you're better off finding a substitute.

If you want to try hunting for it, look for it in the herbs section of the market. Sorrel is a salad green/herb.

BTW, sorrel is very easy to grow. It's basically a weed. I keep mine in a pot on the patio. Despite my neglect, it sprouts a handful of leaves every week thru the spring and summer. People love it as an accent in a salad, and it's a natural with any cream sauce. I suggest you try it.

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I don't know a lot about Australian flora, but if I had to urgently substitute for proper sorrel in a dish like this, I would use wood sorrel, aka "oxalis," since it grows wild in my backyard as a weed. That may not be an option for the OP, though. I agree with others that the sorrel family has a very "lemony" taste, and there's nothing I can think of that would be a suitable substitute. Spinach might work on its own merits, as might lemon balm or lemon verbena, or you might try searching for other greens high in oxalic acid. (This site, for example, seems to indicate the lamb's quarters have a lot of it.) Raw rhubarb stems might be an interesting approach flavour-wise, but the visuals would be all wrong.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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dill fronds and lemon juice can be substituted for sorrel and you have to do it to taste.

Sorrel grows like a weed in my yard so I generally have plenty but it did freeze and die back this past winter but the dill in the greenhouse kept on growing so when I made a carrot sorrel soup, I used a cup of dill fronds, blended with a bit less than 1/4 cup of lemon juice and the zest of one lemon.

The flavor was pretty much the same.

I use dill and lemon juice in a cream sauce for fish - salmon, etc., you have to mix it and allow it to set for about an hour for the flavors to blend well.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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If I don't want to add a liquid (i.e. lemon juice) I suppose, say, sumac (added to the sour cream) would be worth a shot, right?

Good tip on the Vietnamese market thing. I work in a big Viet area so I'll drop by and see if I can find any there. On the pink peppercorn front, tho', given I have no idea where I'd find fresh ones (I'm told the trees grow all over the place but I'm not sure what I'm looking for, exactly) I might have to use Sichuans or dried pinks. Will see how it goes, anyway.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Yeah I'll check out Springvale. Might even swing by my local Asian supermarket later, as they have a lot of generically Asian herbs and vegetables. Without my car for the next few days, tho', I'll sub in favour of a road trip further afield.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Thank you for this topic, now I'm craving sorrel. I rarely see it for sale, even at farmers' markets. In a fit of gardening optimism, I added a packet of sorrel seeds to an online seed order today.

As for substitutes, if you're avoiding lemon juice, I like the suggestion of a lemony herb to spinach or another tender green--lemon verbena or lemon thyme are the only two I know.

Or maybe adding citric acid to your green will do the trick. See this topic on citric acid uses.


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Uh, Chris, is there any reason that you have to make the recipe right now when your car is out of commission and you can't shop for key ingredients?

I have no idea what that green is. If grass clippings are a poor sub for sorrel (probably), how about revisiting your idea with sumac? Do you have the dried powder, or the dried berries? How about simply using lemon zest in the sour cream? Instead of something herb-y and sour, like sorrel, you could go for fruity and sour.

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Purely to be difficult, I guess. I mean I'm a teacher on school holidays. It's not like I have much to do with my time aside from causing damage in the kitchen.

I think I'll use sumac, yeah. The powder. I also found the peppercorns today--they're dried and all, but I'll live, I'm sure.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Carol at Alinea At Home made that dish if you want to check out her experience: http://alineaathome.typepad.com/alinea_at_home/2009/01/sour-cream-sorrel-smoked-salmon-pink-pepper.html

She couldn't find sorrel either and just used chives. And she didn't seem to be fussing about fresh pink peppercorns, so I think dried are fine.

I think for a dish like this, that has what, 4 ingredients?, you're going to lose a lot in any kind of adaptation (for both ingredients and preparation method). What you end up with might be good, but it's not going to be the Alinea dish, which might be fine by you.

Tammy's Tastings

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I've just put my demo version in the freezer. Into the sour cream/simple syrup mixture I added ground dried pink peppercorns and powdered sumac to taste. I was surprised at how much sweetness such a small quantity of syrup gave the sour cream ... and I was surprised at how much sumac I had to add to get the balance right. Sumac smells so potent so it's deceiving, I guess. I'll check on it every half hour or so. The idea seems to be to have it half frozen, half not.

The plan of attack is to freeze the sour cream/syrup/spice mixture atop Chinese soup spoons. I'll then grate the frozen smoked salmon over it, add a dried pink peppercorn (which are giving to the tooth--I tried) and a little sprig of dill. It needs some extra colour and, I mean, dill ... seafood ... the association I have from some Central and Eastern European dishes of dill and sour cream ...

EDIT

Half a hour in the freezer was enough to get the sour cream to firm up nicely. Grating the smoked salmon was a fiddly barrel of laughs but I got there in the end, altho' I'm contemplating dicing it finely instead next time. I could even leave it unfrozen and get it up to room temp and then put it on top of the cold sour cream, to add a bit of a temp contrast. Just to give it more texture. I'll also use less dill next time, as its flavour dominated the sumac and peppercorns. Overall, tho', once I fix up the presentation (the demo version wasn't meant to look pretty--it was all about the flavours and the freezing) I'll have a nice canape on my hands.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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  • 5 years later...

Am making a Belarusian borscht recipe and am unable to find fresh sorrel anywhere in time for my dinner. (Am in South Florida.) I see that spinach and lemon juice is a recommended substitute, but this recipe calls for the sorrel to be boiled briefly with the water being used and the leaves being discarded. I don't see how that would work with the suggested substitution. If anyone could provide guidance, I would most appreciate it.

 

There's the off chance that I could get pickled sorrel, but I did that last time and I ended up with water that was way too salty.


 

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Beets greens have the same type of flavor as sorrel with their high oxalic acid content, although a bit more earthy. Borscht being beet-based, it would make sense to use that. So look for beets with the greens still on!

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I've never heard of using sorrel in borscht, or spinach for that matter. Traditionally sorrel or sorrel combined with other greens was used for "grass soup" as my dad used to call it, otherwise known as Tchav. I'm not saying it wouldn't be tasty, but it is a very different flavor profile. The borscht my family ate didn't have potatoes in it, which I think is more typical of Belarus borscht. I'm no authority, though! Beet greens sounds like a smart addition.

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Growing up I Russia we made sorrel shchi (щи) soup with addition of potatoes.  Topped with hard boiled egg and sour cream just before serving.  My mouth is watering right now!  Sorrel was kept in soup and not discarded. 

 

I I think spinach or beet greens with lemon juice will be an OK substitute.  Also try Eastern European grocery stores, they should carry canned sorrel.

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