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Sorrel, the vibrant broad-leafed herb, is peeping up in my backyard, one of the season’s first greens. This herb is the North Country’s answer to lemon. Though less astringent than the citrus, it serves the same purpose of heightening flavors, and it adds a lovely accent to dishes of eggs, chicken and lamb. Whisk it into cream soups, sauces, mayonnaise and dips. It’s also fabulous with fish.

A cousin of buckwheat and rhubarb, sorrel is a hardy perennial, undaunted by the cold, growing continuously from April through frost. Its distinctive tart taste is due to oxalic acid, which is also present in black tea and spinach.

Like spinach, sorrel is tender and mild when the plant is young (early spring), but turns slightly bitter as the season progresses. Cooking helps to dampen its bite while it also reduces the volume. Adding a few leaves of spinach or chives adds a brighter color. Local sorrel is just now coming into our co-ops, supermarkets, spring farmers markets and our backyards.

Sorrel’s exuberant color and tangy flavor are a perfect complement to fish, especially salmon. Right now, farm-raised salmon is readily available, before the season for wild salmon begins in May. Atlantic salmon, raised sustainably by environmentally conscious farmers, are delicious.

The only trick to cooking salmon is not to overcook it. I like to start it in a hot pan, then finish it in a hot oven and serve the pretty pink salmon with the brilliant contrasting green sorrel sauce.

If you can’t find fresh sorrel, substitute fresh spinach in this recipe and add a generous squirt of fresh lemon juice before serving. The sassy notes of sorrel help slap me out of my wintry doldrums. Now is the time to spring into this green.

Simple Sorrel Sauce for Fish

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Note: This sauce is also delicious on chicken breasts and steak. If you prefer a smoother texture, purée the mixture in a food processor or blender. If sorrel isn’t available, substitute equal amounts of spinach for the sorrel and add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 to 3 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 1/4 c. chopped shallots

• 3 c. coarsely chopped fresh sorrel (see Note)

• 1 c. coarsely chopped spinach

• 1 small red jalapeño pepper, deveined, seeded and chopped

• 2 to 3 tbsp. heavy cream or sour cream

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the shallots until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the sorrel, spinach, pepper and cream, and cook until the greens are just wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over the salmon.

Nutrition information per 1/4 cup:

Calories 65 Fat 6 g Sodium 25 mg

Carbohydrates 3 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 1 g

Protein 1 g Cholesterol 15 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 fat.

Pan Roasted Salmon

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: While this recipe calls for butter, feel free to use oil (coconut or sunflower work nicely). This method works equally well for wild salmon when in season. From Beth Dooley.

• 3 to 4 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 1 salmon fillet, about 1 1/2 to 2 lb.

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Simple Sorrel Sauce for Fish (see recipe)

Directions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof, heavy skillet large enough to fit the salmon, set over medium-high heat.

When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the salmon, skin side up, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cook on the stove for about 4 minutes, flip the fish and set the pan in the oven. Continue roasting until the flesh is opaque on the outside, but still just a bit translucent in the center. An instant-read thermometer should read 120 degrees when inserted into the middle of the fish.

Serve topped with the sorrel sauce.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings (without sauce):

Calories 240 Fat 14 g Sodium 55 mg

Carbohydrates 0 g Saturated fat 6 g Total sugars 0 g

Protein 25g Cholesterol 80 mg Dietary fiber 0 g

Exchanges per serving: 3 ½ medium-fat protein.

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.