There are many ways to use this lovely herb and if you google recipes you'll find many are from northern Europe where it is a very common ingredient. Often it is cooked but I personally prefer it raw so that it retains it's bright citrus flavor. Sorrel Pesto is the perfect way to enjoy it's fresh lemon like quality. (We love pesto, you might also like to try my Basil Mint Vegan Pesto recipe.)
Other sorrel recipes
Popular recipes include sorrel sauce with salmon and sorrel soup, both of which are French recipes. Used in mixed salads, it adds a very bright fresh note and in pesto it is lighter and milder than basil. Once cooked it loses much of it's bright flavor and can sometimes be a little on the bitter side.
Growing your own sorrel
One of the big perks of living on Canada's West Coast is our mild winters. We are well into November now and my spring sorrel is staging a comeback after the heat and dryness of the summer had decimated it. I thought I better use it now though, before we start getting heavy frost and finally got around to making sorrel pesto which had been on my mind last spring.
Sorrel is fresh and very lemony in flavour, in fact my daughter calls it lemon leaf and loves to pick leaves to snack on while out in the garden.
It is an extremely easy and low maintenance herb to grow, some might call it a weed, but it is a lovely addition to a kitchen garden. It is hearty, one of the first plants to start growing in the spring and one of the last to keep producing in the fall. Sorrel is a fantastic vitamin and fiber powerhouse too.
Plant your sorrel in a spot it can stay and it will come back for you each year. This plant doesn't take up too much space, approximately one square foot. I used a lot of it this year in salads and sauces and so I decided to let mine go to seed this summer in hopes of having a few more plants next spring. (If you love growing herbs, check out my collection of Mint Recipes and Parsley Recipes.)
For my sorrel pesto, I decided to use local hazelnuts as the base. They are so delicious and fresh here right now. Hazelnuts are a relatively soft nut that can be crushed or ground into a nice paste consistency but you could certainly use another soft mild nut like cashews or pine nuts.
To highlight the lemon flavour, I added lemon zest and then added a cup of grated Parmesan cheese to help bind it all together and give that melty, creamy consistency when spooned over hot pasta.
My family gave the thumbs up that this is a keeper and one big advantage over classic pesto with pine nuts and basil is that this is really economical to make. I hope you get a chance to try this and if you don't already have sorrel growing in your garden, I highly recommend planting it next spring. (Click here for my favourite, West Coast Seeds)
Sorrel And Hazelnut Pesto
- ½ c Hazelnuts
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 clove Garlic
- 2 c Sorrel Leaves
- ½ c Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
- 1 c Parmesan, Grated 100 grams/3 oz
- In food processor (or with mortar and pestle if you feel like it and have the extra time) process the hazelnuts and salt until the nuts are very finely ground. Add the garlic and process again until it is uniform with the nuts.
- Add the sorrel, about ½ cup at a time, when it gets too thick to process, start adding the oil slowly, alternating with the remaining sorrel until all incorporated.
- Stir in the lemon zest and grated parmesan and season to taste with salt.
- Serve with hot pasta like fettuccine or pappardelle or as a condiment with some grilled or poached fish or chicken.
- Another delicious option (or use your leftovers) is as a spread on bruschetta and topped with sliced cherry tomatoes.