Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen:
The Newlywed Cookbook

Our guest blogger this week is Sarah Copeland, author of the deliciously romantic and highly user-friendly Newlywed Cookbook. Leave a comment on the post and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of the book we’ll be giving away at random. Offer valid in the US and Canada.

Yesterday was my first day back in my community garden here in New York City after the winter. I made a cardinal gardener’s mistake last season, and didn’t do a winter clean before the snow fell, so I knew there would much work waiting when I arrived. When I did, as predicted, there were piles of leaves and sturdy, tree-like tomato stalks that had all but made themselves a permanent fixture. But, in the middle of the mess, there were my three faithful bunches of French sorrel, always the first to reappear on their own each year, as if to cheer me on and welcome me back. They are a promise of many easy, bright meals to come from just a wee bit of work.

The very first thing I make each spring when I find this pungent, lemony green—neither quite a lettuce nor an herb—bursting from the soil, is a rustic sorrel pesto. I rock my knife back and forth against the broad, flat leaves to make a thin chiffonade, stir it together loosely with basil, lemon, toasted pecans and walnuts, and my best extra virgin olive oil. The electric flavors that follow make an inspired garnish for grilled lamb, steak or fish. It especially compliments the mild, fatty flesh of arctic char, one of the more sustainable fish in the sea.

This simple spring-through-summer meal is easy enough for any weeknight, but elegant enough for friends, too. It makes a grand advertisement for keeping a garden, no matter how small, on your windowsill, porch or a little plot of land somewhere sunny. Sorrel is rarely found in supermarkets and even most farmers’ market, but it couldn’t be easier to grow. Even for a lazy gardener like me.

Gardener’s Note: Plant Sorrel seeds or a plant in well-drained soil in full or partial sun, 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost. Keep moist and pick the leaves often during the cooler months and it will reward for years and years to come. Just like this simple meal, sprung from the pages of The Newlywed Cookbook.

Arctic Char with Sorrel Pesto

Serves 4

Sorrel Pesto
2 handfuls {1 small bunch} fresh sorrel, stemmed
1 small handful {1/2 bunch} fresh basil or parsley leaves, or a mix, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup/2 oz/55 g walnuts or pecans {or a combination}), coarsely chopped
1/2 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 lemon
1/4 cup/60 ml best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Fish
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Two 6-oz/170 g pieces arctic char or wild-caught salmon, skin on
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Make the pesto: Stack several sorrel leaves on top of each other on the cutting board. Slice into thin strips and transfer to a bowl; repeat with the remaining leaves.

Add the sorrel to the chopped herbs and nuts along with the garlic. Zest the lemon and add to the sauce with the olive oil. Halve the lemon, and squeeze a bit of juice into the bowl. Toss all together with a spoon and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the fish: Heat olive oil in large nonstick or stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the fish and add it to the pan, skin-side down. Cook until the skin is crispy and pulls away from the pan easily and the fish is about halfway cooked through {you’ll know when the translucent pink flesh turns to a pale opaque pink around the sides and edges and is still shiny in the thickest part}, about 5 minutes. Using a flexible spatula, flip the fish onto the flesh side, and cook until the fish is just cooked through, but still slightly shiny pink inside, about 4 minutes more. If this makes you nervous simply cover the pan with the lid and cook until just pink throughout but still a touch translucent.

Transfer the fish to 2 plates, spoon the pesto over the top, and serve.

Purchase: The Newlywed Cookbook: Fresh Ideas and Modern Recipes for Cooking with and for Each Other.

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