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Cold Schav

Last week, when I said it was too hot to think about food, I had no idea it was going to get even hotter. Yesterday, I went the whole day without eating … without even feeling hungry. Then, finally, about 7:30 I had cold, leftover chicken with the spicy Chinese sesame sauce I still have in my refrigerator from June 16, when I posted three different recipe for it this diary. Actually, I stirred together all three recipes in one bowl. The sum was not greater than its parts (I still like my version best), but it was pretty good.

Following is another hot weather standard in my house. I don't know where to tell you to buy sorrel, but several of you have requested the recipe, saying you have sorrel to spare. It's around.

(Cold Sorrel Soup)
Serves 8 to 10

Schav is a Russian soup, as is beet borscht, and not only were they the only cold soups I knew existed as a child, but they were a regular part of my mother's summer meal repertoire. The borscht she bought. The schav my grandmother made from scratch, which meant ordering enormous bunches of large-leafed sorrel -- what she called "sour grass" -- from her fruit and vegetable man. These days I see tiny bunches of tender sorrel for several dollars each and I laugh. I wait until I see older, tougher sorrel at a farmer's market, which I always do about this time of year, when the sorrel is about to bolt and go to seed. Sorrel is also an easy perennial to grow, which I do now, although I need to use a whole plant to make just one quart of soup.

I suppose my fondest memory of schav – since I didn't like the taste as a child – was my father sneaking a drink of it from the bottle, standing in front of the open refrigerator door. My mother would yell at him from the next room to close the refrigerator and to pour it into a glass. I never could figure out how she knew what he was doing. Naturally, now I do.

Schav was only part of my mother's hot day menu. After the soup, she'd serve cold salads, like tuna, or egg salad, or chicken salad, and a platter of vegetables – sliced tomatoes, scallions, cucumber. The vegetables also went into the schav. I still like it best with chopped radishes, scallions, and cucumbers, a boiled potato, and a big dollop of sour cream. Some people enrich their schav with egg, beating it in while the soup is still hot. Besides slightly thickening the soup, it gives it a golden cast. We always had ours a mucky but pure green-gray.

4 pounds sorrel
4 quarts water
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 eggs (optional)
Lemon juice (optional)
Sour cream or yogurt
Chopped cucumber
Chopped scallions
Chopped red radishes
A medium boiled potato per serving

Pick over and wash the sorrel well. Remove the tough stems, then chop the leaves fine.

In a 5- to 8-quart enameled or stainless steel pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Drop in the sorrel and boil for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste, and if a slightly tarter edge is desired, add a little lemon juice.

To enrich the soup with egg, in a small bowl beat the eggs well. Bring the soup to a boil, remove from heat, then beat the eggs into the hot soup. (Don't add eggs if you plan to store the soup longer than a week.)

Pour schav into clean quart jars and refrigerate.

Serve very well chilled in deep or flat bowls with a hefty dollop of sour cream or yogurt either floating in the soup or beaten into it, and chopped cucumber and scallions.

Not on advance preparation: Without eggs, the schav should keep well in the refrigerator for about 10 days. With eggs, do not keep longer than three days. Do not freeze.

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