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Archive for March, 2012

In spring, a young forager’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of greens.

That’s how that goes, right? I don’t remember, but when March in Seattle brings its flowering trees, its longer days, and its weather, uh, exactly like October through February, I start looking at the ground for plants that are best when they first come up. Dandelions (try my dandelions with leeks recipe, or the dandelion scramble). Nettles (here’s the nettle pesto recipe and a nettle broth with saffron dumplings). Miner’s lettuce, watercress, and plenty of other plants emerge in early spring too. And yesterday’s favorite, spotted by my talented friend Karyn as we were going for a walk in the woods: sheep sorrel.

There are two common wild sorrels that I’m aware of around here, sheep sorrel and wood sorrel. Both have a tangy, lemony flavor, similar to the kind of sorrel you can buy at a farmers market, but more delicate. They’re great in a cream sauce with sautéed onions and poured over salmon. But leave them fresh and you preserve both the flavor and the bright green color.

Karyn and I were planning to cook dinner together, and I was defrosting a piece of tuna I’d bought from St. Jude’s at the Ballard farmers market for the occasion. We made side dishes of roasted vegetables with lemon, boiled tiny salt potatoes, and some excellent squishy cheese. We seared the tuna with smoked paprika. Then we poured over it a blended mixture of raw sorrel (with a few young dandelion leaves thrown in because they were there), olive oil, salt, and a touch of lemon. It was bright green, and delicious with the tuna and with the carrots. Try this sauce with anything that has a light, fresh, springtime flavor. Or just eat it with a spoon.

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Wild Sorrel Paste

  • About two cups of wild sorrel leaves, sheep sorrel if you can find it
  • About three tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon, per taste
  • A pinch of salt, also to taste
  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic

1. Roast garlic. Since this sauce goes well with roasted vegetables, you could roast some carrots, parsnips, asparagus, or other vegetables along with the garlic, and make extra cloves to eat.

2. Wash sorrel very well.

3. Put all ingredients in a small blender. Blend.

 

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Seared Tuna

  • about 1 lb fresh or defrosted sushi-grade tuna, local/sustainably caught
  • salt
  • smoked paprika/pimenton
  • black pepper (optional)
  • oil (a high smoke point oil is probably best, but we used a little olive oil and just seared quickly. It worked fine.)

1. Dust the tuna all over with tons of smoked paprika, a little salt, and some black pepper. Let it sit and absorb the flavors while you make the sorrel paste.

2. Heat oil in a flat-bottomed skillet. When the oil is hot, add the tuna and cook for a short amount of time (about 30 seconds) on each side. Your goal is for the inside to be raw but warmed, and the outer part to be cooked and a little brown in a few spots.

3. Slice perpendicularly so each piece gets the range from cooked to raw-ish.

4. Drizzle with the sorrel paste and serve.

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Better food pictures hopefully coming again in future posts. I lost my camera.

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This isn’t a post about food, I admit. These were ornamental cherry trees, not fruiting ones. But still.

If you’ve wandered through Seattle’s arboretum in springtime, you’ve surely noticed the long, flat walkway of cherry trees. It’s lovely, but it wasn’t the best place for blossoms in the park. That honor went to a hillside just south of the walkway, a grassy slope with a tiny gazebo and several old, gorgeous blooming cherries. Every spring, I (and numerous other Seattleites) found our way there to bask, picnic, take pictures, shake petals off of branches. People may have walked along the path, but seeing the hillside made them want to linger. It was the ideal basking and picnicking place, the kind of hillside that made old folks act like little kids, and sweethearts kiss and photograph their sweethearts.

It’s gone.

Here’s what it looked like yesterday. More pics at the end of the post, showing what it looked like before.

Seattle Parks and Rec, making way for a new New Zealand garden project, chopped down the trees. There wasn’t any particular reason they chose that hillside, it seems, other than that the trees were a bit older and the parks department was planning the New Zealand garden somewhere in that vicinity. They could have installed the New Zealand garden just down the slope, in a spot which is fairly overgrown and to which people have little emotional attachment. People could have sat under the cherry trees and admired the new garden. Seattle Parks and Rec could have planted a few new cherry trees among the old ones, so that they’d grow while the others were aging out.

They can’t put the old trees back, of course. But it’s not too late to do something. I just spoke with Andy Sheffer, the project manager, for a while. He has a meeting of the committee this Wednesday (3/7/12), and is willing to bring up my concerns. One idea: plant new cherry trees in that spot, leaving open grass between them, and install the new garden at the bottom of the slope. It wouldn’t be the same for years, but it would be beautiful again someday.

Trees and gardens come and go, and I don’t usually get quite this emotional about them. But in the short time I was standing in that spot yesterday, staring at the chopped stumps, several other people walked by and expressed remorse, including an older woman who had been coming for years. When I mentioned it on Facebook, several friends said how much they’d loved that spot, how they’d gone every year. While not everyone had discovered this idyllic little hillside, those who found it in spring adored it.

If you’d like to voice your opinion before Wednesday, Andy’s contact information is:

Andy Sheffer
800 Maynard Ave S,
Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98134
206-684-7041
andy.sheffer@seattle.gov

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