The Best Way to Eat Your Greens Is to Make Them Into Dessert
Of all the perennial herbs in my kitchen garden, sorrel is far and away the heartiest. I planted tiny plugs of the lemony green, each about the size of my thumb, last year and left it alone. It died back over the winter but has come to life and, with the warm weather recently, has already started to bolt. I spend each morning in the garden plucking the flowers away so that the plant lasts a little longer before the leaves get too tough to eat.
Sorrel is not as common a culinary herb in this country as it is in France, where it is usually cooked into a soup called potage germiny. Cream of sorrel soup is bright and tart and a lovely thing indeed. But here’s the problem with sorrel: When it comes in contact with heat (like when you cook it), it instantly loses its pretty green color and turns an unattractive khaki. So the solution to keeping its color is simply to leave it raw.
I save the flowers that I trim every morning in a bag in the fridge, and when I have enough sorrel collected I whiz it in the blender with buttermilk. Then I make a panna cotta with that mixture and a little cream.
Traditionally, panna cotta is stiffened with gelatin, which is not vegetarian, but I often substitute agar, a thickener derived from seaweed, which makes a finely textured panna cotta.
Sorrel-Buttermilk Panna Cotta
2 1/4 teaspoons powdered agar
2 tablespoons cold water
6 cups sorrel (3 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
Fresh fruit for serving
Lightly oil 8 (3- to 4-ounce) ramekins. Sprinkle the agar over the water in a bowl and let stand until softened.
Puree the sorrel with the buttermilk in a blender until smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids.
Heat the cream with the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the agar mixture until dissolved. Combine the cream and buttermilk mixtures, then divide between ramekins and chill until set, at least 4 hours. Serve with the fresh fruit.