Shav soup is often described as being a salty soup made from sorrel, that is served cold. A refreshing antidote to hot summer days. On the same day that my sister-in-law, Marsha, decided to make some Shav soup and told me about it, there was a food article by Gabrielle Hamilton in the NYT Magazine section about the very same thing. Game on. It was time for me to try making some too. Now all I had to do was find some Sorrel. (For everything you would possibly like to know about Sorrel, click the highlighted link). But note that you could always substitute spinach when sorrel is not available.
My sister-in-law's decision to make the soup was based upon nostalgia for her past. Eating Shav soup was a part of her family history, a food shared in her family on hot summer days while growing up in Wisconsin. In my own family, I was used to being offered a cold and refreshing beet soup, a red opposite sorrel's green, but also served with a garnish of sour cream. This was a summer's refreshing treat to cool you from an August afternoon's still strong sun and an unrelenting breezeless heat.
My childhood's beet soup was most often prepared by my Grandma Clara, and served at an outdoor patio table with green sun umbrella somewhat shading this gathering spot up at Sackett Lake. The ice-cold beet soup treat would be offered between ongoing games of gin rummy or steal the old man's bundle played between me, Clara, and her husband Izzy. Grandpa Izzy was good at counting cards, and so often won the gin rummy competitions.
My sister-in-law's and Hamilton's sorrel green was similar to our family's beet soup in it's intent to cool and refresh, but was new to me. The image of the opposite colors, one bright red, one green, amuses me as I think of these two cold vegetable soups.
Dear reader, what cold soups do you remember from your childhoods? Vichyssoise perhaps? Or maybe a cold fruit soup from your Moosewood cookbook days back in the seventies. I think I remember making cherry soup, or a cantaloupe soup that were both in vogue and on a certain soup restaurant 's summer menu on West 4th Street in Greenwich Village, back in the days. And then there is today's ever present gazpacho, or something the Bulgarians call Tarator which is a yogurt, dill, garlic cucumber soup. What are your favorite cold soups from the past? Weigh in with your comments!
On occasion I would notice jars of shav on NYC bodega shelves, the rounded glass below the cap always covered in dust, as if time were passing the jars by, and it was obvious that no one was attracted enough to buy some. The contents looked like sludge and was so unappealing. Sometimes homemade is really the best, given its freshness. You can taste the love and care given to the making of this recipe at home, with each spoonful of this ice-cold elixir. And I happily discovered that sorrel is readily available all summer long!
Dear Reader, do try this cold soup featuring Sorrel, during summer's hottest days. Enjoy!
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium shallot peeled and finely minced
- 1 large russet potato peeled and trimmed into the shape of a rectangular box, then small-diced. Mince the scripts from boxing as fine as the shallots.
- Kosher salt
- 3 cups water
- ½ pound sorrel stems removed but saved, leaves washed and cut into 1-inch ribbons
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- Barbara Bedick's Variation to Hamilton's recipe: garnish with fresh dill. Leave out eggs and substitute in yogurt or some Bulgarian feta cheese-yum!.
Melt butter in nonreactive soup pot. Sweat shallot and minced potato scraps in the butter slowly, stirring gently. Season with salt.
Put dices potatoes in the water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer potatoes until perfectly cooked, a couple of minutes only. Taste one cube to determine.
Add sorrel to sweating shallot-potato mixture, and season with salt. Stir and wilt the sorrel, which will happen almost instantly, turning drab immediately.
Add the cooked potatoes and their salty water to the pot of sorrel. Season with salt, if needed, keeping in mind that when chilled, the flavors are dulled significantly.
Chill immediately and thoroughly - overnight even.
Chop the hard-boiled eggs, and scatter in the cold soup. Mince half the reserved stems from the sorrel as you would chives, and sprinkle over soup.