The caviar in the foreground, along with whole mussels, rose petals, wood sorrel, arugula blossoms, lemon zest and threads of sorrel.
There is a cluster of mussels attached to the salty spots of my heart. They were the first shellfish I learned how to cook when I was a teenager. My mom and dad showed me how to dump a bit of white wine and pepper into the pot, pop them open with a boil, and drizzle their stock over them. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we eat our mussels this way, with a bit of garlic, a pinch of salt and maybe some butter.
This very elegant and easy presentation of mussels came about by accident. I had some left in the fridge and had to use them. To my delight, I discovered that the broth had permeated the mussels in the most delicate and robust way.
Thinly sliced sorrel stem on the rhubarb.
My friend’s brother-in-law, grateful for my friend’s help, gave him the liver of one of his sheep. In turn, my friend passed the liver onto me. So, I wanted to do something different from the traditional liver with onions. (Sorry, Mom.)
I found the recipe for calf’s liver with sorrel sauce in one of my favorite Spanish cookbooks, The Foods & Wines of Spain, by Penelope Casas. Casas mentions that this dish, originating in Segovia, was traditionally made with rhubarb leaves. Rhubarb leaves, despite being toxic, have a very pleasant citrus taste. (I had to take a pinch just to see.) However, due to their known poisonous properties, Casas uses sorrel, instead. Since they are in the same plant family–Polygonaceae–and very closely related, they share similar qualities, including that illuminating tartness from all the oxalic acid.
I did make a few modifications to the recipe.
Salmonberries are as varied in color as they are in taste. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes they are sour, sometimes they are insipid and sometimes they are an indescribable mix of flavors. Because this is my first harvest of the season, I thought it best to keep them the centerpiece. They are the first spring berry to ripen in the Pacific Northwest, and their presence is a reminder of the long, warm days to come.
Keep this plate small. Salmonberries aren’t known for their abundance. You might be able to put this plate together from only one bush, if you’re lucky, and if the bush is large. The simple syrup recipe makes way more than you need, but you can store it in your fridge for a long, long time.