Saturday, June 16, 2007

Skābenes—A Summer Taste

If you belong to a CSA and receive a greens share, some times in June you may find in your box (next to the kohlrabi and Jerusalem artichokes) a bunch of sorrel. The first time I saw some, I thought it looked like turnip greens and put it in a salad (which is perfectly fine).

In various parts of Europe it is highly prized. In France it is pulverized to make an elegant cream soup. But unassuming Eastern Europe sorrel soup is a beloved (and quite tart) summer staple in Latvia. It’s filled with bits of dill, hard-cooked egg, lemon, carrot, onion, potato, sorrel, and wherever else needs using up. And it’s also memorable.

Tonight I started off with a hot version of skābenes zupa (as the Latvians call it). Afterward I put the leftover soup in the frig, and next time around (after adding more salt and pepper), it will be served cold. I think it’s even better that way—definitely refreshing on a hot evening. The season for sorrel only last a couple of months, and Latvians claim it has lots of wonderful properties—it can ward off scurvy, bring down a fever, and is rich with potassium and vitamins.

Here’s my version of the soup. But it’s one of those things that can be added to and subtracted from depending on what’s lurking in your vegetable drawer.

  1. Chop up a yellow onion, a clove of garlic, and several carrots. Melt a dab of butter with some canola oil and brown these root vegetables in a big pot.
  2. Add about 8 cups of stock—beef broth, vegetable water, whatever has some flavor. Turn it down once it boils. Cook the root vegetables until they’re nearly soft.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, bring some small new potatoes to a boil in water flavored with chicken bouillon. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes can be pierced with a knife. (This added step is a little different. Most recipes add potatoes to the stock along with the root vegetables, but I don’t like what potatoes do to soup—they turn mealy and soak up a lot of the broth. So I only add them to each bowl of finished soup and save the leftovers separately to add to the cold soup).
  4. Next add ½ lb. of chopped sorrel and spinach to the broth along with small amounts of chopped parsley, chopped dill weed, salt, and pepper. Only bring the soup back to the boiling point and then it’s done.
  5. In each bowl, before ladling in the soup and adding potatoes, place some hard cooked egg slices and a lemon slice in the bottom. On top of the bowl of broth just before serving, add a dollop of sour cream with more chopped dill weed.

That’ll do it; I think it’s really good. Now then, what to do with that Jerusalem artichoke and kohlrabi? Perhaps you have some suggestions. My daughter Brenda, my blogging advisor, tells me my “Comment” setting has been turned off. I’m sorry if it’s prevented anyone from having their say, and I’m remedying the situation as of this posting. So let me hear from you.

Incidentally, in case you are a fan of yoga, you might be interested in the blog of this aforementioned daughter, who is a fine yoga teacher and the writer of the blog “Grounded Thru the Sit Bones: Some yoga thoughts, some yoga practice,” which recently celebrated its first anniversary. If you click on the link, it will take you to Brenda’s latest posting, which also happens to contain this photo of my handsome grandson, Eamonn, last week.


At June 17, 2007 at 1:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You left out an essential ingredient for skabenes zupa: barley. You need to add about 3 Tablespoons of cracked or pearl barley at the same time as the stock. The lemon may be nice, but in the old days they were very scarce, and we didn't use them.


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