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Sorrel Soup: The Ultimate Justification for Two Decades in Russia

One of the reasons I love living in Russia is the year-round access to sorrel.  Sorrel-Soup_-3

This delicate leafy green is a rare treat in Europe and the USA, where its brief, late-spring appearance is treated like a “one-night only” performance by a legendary diva.  In Russia, however, even in the depths of winter, it only takes a quick trip to the farmers’ market to score as much sorrel as you need to make a fantastic sauce for meat or fish (sorrel and salmon are a match made in heaven, as are chicken breasts and sorrel) or a classic Russian “green borscht” or “Shchavelya” soup. I assume there is a massive, top-secret sorrel bunker just south of Baku; I don’t care how nefarious it is, however, as long as they continue to satisfy my regular cravings.

Sorrel soup is a pale green thread that runs through the cuisines of Eastern Europe.

The Poles serve it cold, garnished with hard boiled eggs and sour cream. Ukrainian “green borscht” combines sorrel with potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables for a clear soup, which is served hot.  A Czech version I encountered in the United States marries apples and sorrel for a very distinctive flavor that is at once sweet and piquant.  The French version of sorrel soup takes it to a whole new level:  a velvety puree, thickened with eggs and cream, both of which perfectly compliment the indulgent tangy, slightly peppery flavor sorrel leaves take on when they are cooked down in just a bit too much butter!

Sorrel Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 liters (3 quart) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch disks
  • 1 celery root, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 710 ml (3 cup) sorrel leaves, de-veined and de-stemmed
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 710 ml (3 cups) cup spinach, cleaned
  • 250 ml (1 cup) curly parsley, roughly chopped
  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) salt
  • 30 ml (2 Tbl)  lemon juice
  • 30 ml (2 Tbl) nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 113 gm (1 stick or 8 Tbl) butter

Directions

  1. Melt 2 Tbl of the butter in a deep, heavy-bottomed stockpot, Sauté the leeks in the water until they are soft, sprinkling 1 Tbl of salt and 1 Tbl of nutmeg over them as they begin to wilt.
  2. Add the celery root, zucchini, and stock, bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer until the vegetables are soft when pieced with a fork.
  3. Set a large sauté or frying pan over medium heat, then add 4 Tbl of butter and melt until it just bubbles. Add the sorrel leaves and cook down until the leaves have wilted and leached out all of their water.
  4. Add the cooked sorrel to the stockpot, stir to combine and cook for 3 minutes more. Then add the uncooked spinach and parsley, and the remainder of the salt and nutmeg, and cayenne pepper if you wish. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.
  5. Process the soup in batches in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade to your desired consistency.

Note:

Recipe credit:  Jennifer Eremeeva

There are only two drawbacks to working with sorrel.  Once picked, there is a short window of opportunity to use it before it wilts. Then there is the fiddly problem of having to remove the stem from each leaf, which can be time-consuming and a bit nitpicking, but is essential: sorrel stems are extremely bitter and will ruin the flavor of your soup or sauce.

Sorrel Soup_-4

This is when a really good audio book or podcast becomes indispensable!  Here are a few ideas if you have a lot of finicky and repetitive kitchen tasks to complete:

This radio adaptation of Vassily Grossman’s Life and Fate: The Complete Series (Dramatised)
has left me standing at the sink long after the sorrel and spinach is picked, riveted by the engaging and absorbing tale of a group of people whose lived intersect and intertwine during the Battle for Stalingrad in Russia. It stars some of my favorite actors: Kenneth Branagh, David Tennant, Janet Suzman, Greta Saachi, Ellie Kendrick, and Harriet Walker. Even if you don’t care for wartime drama, you will be drawn into this drama.

 

All Change is the…well I’m going to say “most recent” because I fervently hope that nonagenarian Elizabeth Jane Howard keeps churning out more books about the three generations of the Cazelet family, and their progress through the years before and after the Second World War. These books were made into a wonderful BBC series Masterpiece Theatre – The Cazalets.
All Change recounts the…right, the most recent chapter of the family. I was ready to thunk down one of my Audible credits anyway, but when I learned that Penelope Wilton (a.k.a. Mrs. Crawley in Downton Abbey) had done the narration, I raced out and bought a lot more vegetables to peel, cherries to pit, and anything else that could keep my hands busy but my mind free!


I’ll admit it — I am a sucker for a good — or even mediocre — self-help book. Since I work from home and by myself, I am constantly in search for better approaches to using my time well, set and meet goals, and take my work to the next level. I found Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series)
brimming with interesting ideas from some of the leading creative and productivity gurus of our time like Scott Belsky, Erin Rooney Doland, Seth Godin,Todd Henry, Steven Pressfield, Gretchen Rubin, Stefan Sagmeister, Elizabeth G. Saunders, Tony Schwartz, James Victore.


Readers!

Are you fond of sorrel?  What is your favorite way to prepare this miracle green?   Weigh in by hitting the comment button below!  And, if you enjoyed this recipe, feel free to share it on your favorite social media platforms by hitting the buttons on the left.

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Publishing News:  Lenin Lives Next Door

Readers, I’m thrilled to report that sales of Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow continue to be brisk and the reviews have been phenomenal! Here is just a sample of what bloggers, pundits, readers, and reviewers had to say about this hilarious look at life in the world’s largest country:

“…If Jane Austen had been an American living in post-Soviet Moscow, she might have made similar observations to those in Jennifer Eremeeva’s “Lenin Lives Next Door.” This entertainingly bitchy comedy of manners describes itself as “creative nonfiction”; it is clever, funny and rude about everyone.”

— Phoebe Taplin, Russia Beyond the Headlines

“…Ultimately, though, it is about the encounter. It is about how Russians and foreigners meet, connect and collide, and through that, about how today’s Russia is still trying to negotiate its relationship with the West, the global market, the new age of world-spanning business, leisure and culture.”

— Dr. Mark Galeotti, Clinical Professor of Global Affairs at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and an associate member of NYU’s History and Russian & Slavic Studies departments.

“…I’m more than happy to sit quietly on my couch, spiked and listen to Jennifer tell me about her Russia, the Russia of the present and the future, which is a little less gray, and gives me some hope that not all is lost.”

— V. Boykis

“…She also happens to have an excellent grasp on Russian history and international current affairs which she weaves into her narratives. The affect is that this is a person with whom you can envision having a fun and intellectual conversation.

While sipping lattés at the Starbucks on The Arbat, or martinis at Café Pushkin, you could ask the author, because “no one ever, ever, does” about the title. How did she come up with Lenin Lives Next Door? Or, you could read the book. The answer could only happen in Russia.”

— Julie Starr, Librarian www.thefunlibrarian.blogspot.ca

“…I truly think Jennifer Eremeeva could make anything funny.”

— Chloe, member of Goodreads

Publishing News:  Have Personality Disorder, Will Rule Russia


I’m also delighted to announce the much-anticipated release of the companion piece to Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow, Have Personality Disorder, Will Rule Russia: A Concise History of Russia

“You should imagine Russian history,” suggests American writer and veteran expatriate, Jennifer Eremeeva, “on a huge, 3D IMAX screen, surround sound booming with a jumbo bucket of popcorn in your lap and huge blue drink at your side.” Eremeeva should know: she became fascinated with Russian history at the age of thirteen, when she plucked a copy of Robert Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra off the school library shelves. “And I don’t think it is over the top to say that my life was set on a new course.”
Three decades later, Eremeeva found herself living in Moscow, married to HRH, her “Handsome Russian Husband,” (although there are days when she secretly refers to him as her “Horrible Russian Husband,”) and writing her first book, Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow. As she explored what she calls “the lighter, funnier side of this big, messy country,” Eremeeva penned her own tongue-in-cheek version of the country’s turbulent and colorful history: Have Personality Disorder, Will Rule Russia: A Concise History of Russia as a companion piece to Lenin Lives Next Door.[divider_flat] As a former tour guide and Ivy League-educated historian, Eremeeva is an expert in making Russia’s history both entertaining and digestible to non-academics. She strolls expertly but lightly through her material, tracing the winning formula for Russia’s effective rulers back to the Tatar-Mongols, revealing why Ivan was not so Terrible, Catherine was totally awesome, and why Peter the Great and Stalin would never ever tweet or Instagram anything. Eremeeva helps us peek inside Empress Elizabeth’s baroque boudoir, deconstructs Gorbachev’s curiously split personality, and shows us exactly where the bodies are buried (Peter and Paul Fortress and the Archangel Michael Cathedral, of course.) Eremeeva’s unique fusion of humor and history and inimitable writing style brings the enigma that is Russia into hilarious focus in this compact and highly readable guide to thirteen centuries of Russian history.
Fans of Eremeeva’s blogs, columns, and her full-length book, Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow are sure to enjoy this further exploration of Russia’s soft and hilarious underbelly. For readers embarking on a visit to Russia or an exploration of the country’s rich literature and culture, Have Personality Disorder, Will Rule Russia offers a succinct, informative, and highly entertaining introduction to the country’s complex and expansive history.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Su says:

    I make a fresh sorrel sauce for salmon and other fish by blitzing sorrel with creme fraich a bit of lemon juice and salt. Can be used as is or slightly warmed, but not cooked. The bright green against fresh wild salmon pink is lovely. After reading your thoughts on mayo I’m thinking that mixing the sauce with a tin of salmon might be a good change from tuna mayonnaise.

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