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Monday, May 9, 2011

Slow Food Iowa City Eat-In and Meatless Monday: Lentil and Potato Soup with Sorrel

Well, spring is here.  There's no denying it now.  The tulips are starting to droop and edibles are starting to burst forth.  This weekend I was lucky enough to share a potluck with some wonderful people to celebrate the first Saturday farmer's market of the year.  We decided to have an Eat-In.  Never heard of one?  Here's a summary from our press release, written by Bethany Bender.

"An Eat-In is a gathering of people in a public place sharing a meal they have cooked together. By gathering participants around the table for a meal, an Eat-In aims to build communities of people who are committed to creating a food system that brings more people good, clean, and fair food."

We are lucky to have a community of people who are interested in food, and farmers who are willing to grow great food and sell it to us at a fair price.  We thought a potluck meal was the perfect way to heighten awareness of how lucky we are and just how many choices there are out there for people who care about food.  The farmer's market was the perfect venue, being filled with vegetables and herbs that are easy to turn into delicious dishes.

Planning an outdoor potluck can be a little scary, given just how bad things can go, especially in spring time.  We lucked out and the weather and food were just perfect.  Some people brought dishes made from market produce, others grew their own.  Almost everything was local!  We had an excellent turnout and the gorgeous cherry trees provided shade and fragrance.

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I couldn't get enough of their sweet blossoms.

DSC01667We started setting up right before market ended, hoping people would realize what was going on and join us.  Jason, on the left, brought a bunch of radishes and greens from his house in Coralville.  He also gave some sorrel to Will, on the right, for his sorrel soup which inspired my recipe for today.

DSC01671The Slow Food Iowa City team helped with signs.

DSC01673Acoustic Farms was there, bringing some cheese curds and fromage blanc that were MORE than welcome.

DSC01680We ended up with three tables full of greens, composed salads, egg dishes (I brought some curried egg salad) and rhubarb.  We spread out a blanket and split three big plates of delicious local food.

People spread out, ate until they couldn't hold anymore, and had great conversations about food.

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Our plates were stuffed:

DSC01683We had Jason's radishes with some Kalona Supernatural butter on a New Pi baguette, a few different salads, some banana bread, and Heather's mac and cheese.

DSC01686My salad on some of Jason's butter crunch lettuce, Acoustic Farm's curds, a bean and rice salad, more bread/radishes, and arugula pesto.

DSC01684Finally, a quiche, some rhubarb crisp, and Will's sorrel soup at the bottom.  This soup inspired me to try my hand at mixing two of Deborah Madison's approaches to sorrel soup.  Will made her sorrel and potato soup, but I also found a recipe in The Savory Way for sorrel lentil soup.  Both of these use sorrel's tartness to complement hearty bases, and I thought they'd combine in an interesting way.  It turned out to be delicious and I hope you'll seek out some sorrel and give it a try.  Sorrel is incredibly easy to grow, so I highly recommend getting some for your home or container garden.  It was literally the first thing to come up in my garden this year, after a long cold winter, and has been super productive.

Here it is in the front yard:

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This recipe is obviously meatless, and is very easy to change to accommodate vegan diets.  The sour cream is optional and any good fat can be used for the vegetables.  It's savory and filling, but the sorrel gives a lightness and character that is otherwise missing from lentil/potato soup.

Lentil and Potato Soup with Sorrel

adapted from Deborah Madison

3 tbsp. butter

1 large handful of sorrel leaves (around 20 big leaves) stems removed

2 leeks, green parts only

3/4 c. green lentils

1 lb. red potatoes

5-7 c. water or stock

1/4-1/3 c. sour cream (optional)

cayenne (optional) to taste

salt and pepper

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Begin by scrubbing the potatoes and rinsing the lentils and sorrel.  Check the lentils well for stones and remove any bad parts from the potatoes.

Thinly slice the green parts of the leeks and rinse them in a salad spinner.  I think this is the easiest way to clean leeks, as long as your slices aren't small enough to slip through the spinner bowl.

DSC01707Quarter the potatoes and then cut them into thin slices.

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Roughly chop the sorrel leaves.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan, like a dutch oven, and sweat the sorrel and leeks, giving them a good salting.  Your kitchen will start to smell really good.  Try not to brown the vegetables by keeping the heat on medium and everything moving.

DSC01712Once the leeks are soft, add the stock or water, potatoes, and lentils.

DSC01715Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils and potatoes are cooked through.  You might need to add more liquid as it evaporates, but be sure you don't have a rolling boil.

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If you'd like, add the sour cream and stir to combine.

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Season well with salt and pepper, and add cayenne if you like the heat.  I think it's great with the sourness of the sorrel.

Serve warm, and enjoy!

DSC01721Have you ever tried sorrel before?  What did you think of it?

I made a sorrel yogurt soup last year and hated it.  Thanks to Will, I gave it another chance and am excited to make this soup a regular occurrence.

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