A French classic… Salmon with sorrel

When I was about four years old, my uncle had a community garden where he grew various vegetables. Memory works strangely, doesn’t it? I don’t have a linear recollection of the garden or the time I spent there, only flashes, experiential stills if you will. Unearthing radishes to be bit into with butter and salt. The sun hitting us and the soil. And the tangy taste of sorrel. He would let me pick it myself and chew on it, and I remember vividly its wonderful lemony flavor.

Sorrel isn’t very well-known here and can be hard to find. So when I found some planted sorrel at a farmer’s market a few months ago, I was very excited to plant some along with my other herbs, thrilled to have history repeat itself (in a good way in this case) and see the look on Pablo’s face while chewing on a sorrel leaf.  I guess that’s one of the things food can do for us. Help us come full circle, infuse some of who we are and our past, into our children, via their taste buds. It is such a visceral meaningful way for different generations to connect. In the garden, in the kitchen or at the table.

But moving on from the nostalgic, childhood, soulful part of this post to its practical side…
When I first started looking into baby food in the US, I was baffled at the lack of variety available in baby food jars in stores, even high-end stores. Hoping to find ready-made Brussels sprouts puree? Never mind… And those strange mixes of ingredients (how is baby supposed to get familiar with the subtle flavor of vegetables if they’re always overpowered by apricot, which seems to be sneaked into the ingredients of most baby food brands?), and the absence of fish. In any French supermarket, you will find baby jars with “Cod with spring vegetables”, “Salmon with green beans” (sans apricot), and many others. And it actually tastes good! This is one of the reasons why I knew I would have to cook everything myself for Pablo. Had I been living in France, I might not have… Necessity is the mother of invention, so yay for the apricot flavored veggies, because this adventure in cooking for baby has been so fulfilling and interesting!

Numerous nutritional books and experts will tell you the many health benefits of fish (especially the right kind, the smaller fish, low in mercury), it is rich in omega 3, DHA and all kinds of great nutrients and vitamins. Yet some ob/gyns advise against eating fish at all during pregnancy. I had a pediatrician tell me not to eat fish while nursing, and then some even say to avoid giving it to baby the first year. It has been shown that fetuses start “tasting” what mom eats around 21 weeks of pregnancy (interesting story on this at http://www.npr.org/2011/08/08/139033757/babys-palate-and-food-memories-shaped-before-birth). It’s hard to expect our children to like fish if we don’t try to expose them to its flavor early on (plus it’s so good for them!)

I started Pablo on fish and meat at the same time (one at a time, of course), around 8 months. I try to make sure he has it at least 2 to 3 times a week, and that he eats a good variety of fish (mostly I use salmon, Dover sole, cod, and sardines).

The tart sourish flavor of sorrel (which, by the way, is extremely high in vitamin C and A, as well as in iron and fiber) complements the fattiness and richness of salmon very nicely. (Salmon in a creamy sorrel sauce is a standard in most traditional French restaurants.) So give this very simple recipe a try and see if it wins over your child! Can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂

Salmon with Sorrel Puree

Age: Around 8 months depending on when you started solids, check with your pediatrician. (If your child hasn’t had salmon nor sorrel yet, you can start with a Salmon with Kale puree for example, provided you have given him kale puree by itself beforehand.)

This recipe makes approximately 4 x 2-oz jars, which you can then freeze and feed to your baby later.

1 salmon filet of approx 100 g / 3.5-4 oz** (I try go get Sockeye or Coho wild caught and fresh if possible. Even if you find it previously frozen, you can refreeze safely once it has been cooked)

Wash the sorrel (you can even leave the stems), peel the potatoes and cut them up.
Place the sorrel, potatoes and salmon fillet in your steamer and steam for about 12-15 mn, until the potatoes are cooked through. (I use the Babycook from Beaba, which steams and mixes. If you use that, it’s water level 3).

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor, with a bit of the cooking juice to obtain the desired consistency. You can make it very smooth or chunky depending on your baby’s taste and age. Enjoy! (Or freeze…)

*For an older toddler, you can make the sorrel potato puree (steam together and mix with a bit of the cooking juices to get the desired consistency), add pieces of salmon on top.

** A quick note on protein quantities: researching various French nutritional sites and literature for babies, I found it is usually recommended to start off with about 10-15 g (1/3 to 1/2 oz) of fish or meat per meal at 8 months, and then slowly work your way up to 25 g (0.8 to 1 oz) per meal at 12 months. Adjust the weight of the salmon fillet you use according to your baby’s age.

Pin It

Warmth, inside and out, and watercress sorrel soup

Someone asked me recently what was the common denominator among my friends. What was the thing I sought out and was most attracted to in others? It surprised me how quickly the answer came to me: inner warmth. Life certainly has its shares of cold winter days, where one feels lonely, or inadequate, or hopeless, or lost, or irate. Sometimes there are Chernobyl days where you feel all of those things at the same time! (Read: meltdown). The warm, cashmere-soft, inner flame of friendship is what might get me through those winters. Even if life is too hard to reach out to those friends explicitly. Just knowing the very existence of those human beings. Knowing they’re in my life. Knowing they are my village. So warm, a moment of carefree laughter with them, even in my darkest hours. When I think of friendship, I imagine myself rubbing hands very close to a fireplace, comforted by the warmth in every part of my being.

Inner warmth. I can tell right away if I sense it in someone, but I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is. A bunch of things, I suppose. To be open-minded, generous, nurturing. To be mindful of others, attentive, interested, genuine. To be observant, engaged. To want to connect and share. Something like that.

I guess inner warmth, and all its components, is also what I want to bring to the world.  To my son. To my loved ones. To this blog.

Thinking back on my childhood, that sense of inner warmth and friendship is very much associated with meals. The “special” meals my mother would make. Or let me make. Whether it was for the two of us, or for a group of friends.

And one of my winter favorites, was the soupe verte, the green soup. Another example of how amazing simplicity can be. I have been obsessed with soup lately, perhaps needing to feed that inner warmth and keep that flame going. And on a winter night, with family and friends, whether they are there in person or in spirit, this is a soup to warm and nurture the body and soul.

Watercress & sorrel velouté (soup)

Serves about 6

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 45 min

Age for babies: I started this very young, 4-6 months. You can make a puree version, steaming two handful watercress, sorrel (optional) and 1 small potato, and mixing adding water or milk to obtain desired consistency.

2 bunches of watercress, washed thoroughly, stems on
1 handful / bunch of sorrel leaves, washed, stems on
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt & pepper
Dollop of crème fraiche* or yogurt (the liquidy euro-style kind, I really like Bellwether Farms sheep’s milk yogurt)

Place the potatoes in about 6 cups of cold water, with a pinch of salt.

When the water is boiling, throw in the watercress and sorrel (leaves and stems).

Let simmer 30-40 minutes.

Blend thoroughly with an immersion blender until very smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche or yogurt, if desired.

*About the crème fraîche: this is basically French sour cream, much less sour than American-style sour cream. Some stores sell it, but if you want to make it, it is very easy. Take 1 cup of heavy cream (preferably organic from grass-fed cows, raw, or pasteurized, but not ultra pasteurized) and leave it out until it’s room temperature. Add 2 tbsp of cultured buttermilk (that can come from the fridge), and stir with a spoon. Cover and leave in a semi-warm place (like the oven with the light on) from 12-24 hours. It will thicken a bit, you might see bubble from the cultures. It will not be as thick as sour cream, still very liquidy, but a bit thicker than the heavy cream. Put in the fridge a few hours, and it will get firmer. You can keep about a week in the fridge.

Variation: You can make this a watercress only soup, simply skip the sorrel.