One of the big perks of living on Canada’s West Coast is our mild winters. We are well into November now and my 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 because 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 as well as a fantastic vitamin and fiber powerhouse. 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, mine takes up 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.
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. Popular recipes include sorrel sauce with salmon which I have made and sorrel soup both of which are French recipes but I personally prefer it raw so that it retains it’s bright citrus flavor. Used in mixed salads, it adds a very bright fresh note and used in pesto it is lighter and milder than basil. Once cooked it loses much of it’s bright flavour and can sometimes be a little on the bitter side.
For my sorrel pesto, I decided to use local hazelnuts as the base. They are so delicious and fresh here right now and 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
Delicious and so easy, this is a bright lemony version of the classic made with sorrel from the garden or farmer's market and local hazelnuts. Quick to whip up in your food processor.
- 1/2 c Hazelnuts
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 clove Garlic
- 2 c Sorrel Leaves
- 1/2 c Olive Oil
- 1 tsp 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 1/2 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.