Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shchav Soup: Recipe for a Hot Day

Back in the old days before anybody had air-conditioning, my mother, a Polish woman from the old country, felt that the surest cure for hot weather was szczawiowa zupa, shchav, swiss chard soup.

She’d get up early on a day that promised to be in the high 90s, and she’d fix shchav. It wouldn’t take long and it didn’t require a lot of cooking, so it didn’t heat up our apartment. When she had it prepared, she’d stick it into the refrigerator to cool off. In the evening, she’d serve it for dinner when it was in the 90s both outside and inside.

Believe me, it always took the temperature down 10 degrees.

Here's my recipe :

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
12 cups stock (I use veggie broth but you can use chicken)
1 pound fresh swiss chard, stems included, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in your soup pot over medium-high heat and saut√© the onions for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the swiss chard and season with salt and pepper. simmer until the sorrel is olive green in color, about 10 minutes. If you can’t get swiss chard, you can use the same amount of spinach, but make sure you add a ¼ of lemon juice to give the soup its signature tartness.

Smacznego—good eating.

PS--I've received several notes from readers saying that this soup should be made with sorrel rather than swiss chard. This is in fact true, but unfortunately when I was a child growing up in a refugee neighborhood in Chicago, we didn't have a grocer near who sold sorrel. My mother substituted swiss chard--after complaining how there were things that one could so easily find in Poland that she couldn't find anywhere in America.

Addendum to PS:

I received the following from poet Oriana Ivy regarding shchav:

Yes, it's made with wild sorrel picked at streamside. A rather sour soup -- I didn't like it all that much, but I'm sure it's full of fab nutrients. However, in the recipe I don't understand the omission of a hardboiled egg, cut in half. That half of an egg per large soup plate seemed like a kind of eye staring at me out of all that intense green. It's essential to the shchav experience. The egg complements the taste and the nutrients (the soup is fabulous for eye health).


If you want to read about another of my mother's Polish soups, please take a look at my blog "Simple Polish Soup."

The picture of the shchav is from the blog Fresh Approach Cooking.


Anonymous said...

I was lucky, Babcie grew her own Sorrel, now a days I often see it in super marker. One of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

This recipe reminds me of my grammy. Cant wait to try all 3 versions of this soup, and vary it with that eyeball egg :)

Anonymous said...

My mom made this soup with (szczaf) sorrel from her garden. She cooked barley in it for more nutrition. Then she served it with chopped up hard boiled egg and a scoop of sour cream. It was fabulous.

Renata Justkowski said...

Hi John, My family didn't make this soup, mostly it was krupnik because I loved it. But after my parents died when I was 29, our long time next door neighbor, a very old Russian woman, Larissa Borkowski, made sorrel soup for me a few times each summer. She grew her own sorrel. She would call me, ask me to come over & we would eat the soup (with egg) & she would always have another medium sized pot for me to take home. Thank you for bringing this warm memory back. I enjoyed those meals with her very much. She & her husband decided to leave Russia & moved to Poland, left there well before WWII, so they were 'okay' in my parent's book. They were both lovely people.
It's 'funny,' we must have lived next door to them for at least 2-3 years (we moved when I was 8), before I learned they were Russian. I would always speak Polish with them, and one day it somehow came up in conversation. I went into my house & announced to my parents, "Did you know the neighbors are Russian?!?!?" They both gently smiled at me & said yes. This shows how early my wariness of Germans & Russians was. But as my mother often said, Not all Germans were nazis. And so I learned that not all Russians were monsters either.