Thyme on My Hands...Rue in My Arms

From the Huron Valley Advisor - May 29, 1968

There is no greater satisfaction for the diligent eater and lazy gardener than an herb garden. Herbs will grow anywhere -- in rock gardens, in clay, in sand, even I suspect, on a dusty windowsill. You can grown them in a window box or strew them on the back forty, where they will grow into herban sprawl. In fact, the flavor of the herb improves if the soil is poor. Adversity breeds character. All they need is a little sun and up they pop to produce the licorice loveliness of tarragon, the cucumbery leaves of burnet, the masculine tang of oregano and thyme, in fact all of the amenities that make a salad worth tossing. You can get almost all of the herbs you can grow at the Farmer's Market....

A delicious adjunct to the herb garden is sorrel, which is a lettuce-like plant with a sharp acid flavor. Don't confuse sorrel, which is also called sour leaf or sour grass, which sheep sorrel, a clover-like plant. Quantities of sheep sorrel (oxalis) can make you quite ill. Quantities of sorrel (rumex) can only improve your lot. You can often buy sorrel at the Farmer's Market, picked and ready for the table.

One of the most useful of the herbs is rue -- not rue anemone or meadow rue, but just plan rue. This has a lovely blue-green leaf which is quite decorative and has a somewhat bitter taste. I have found that it is often an improvement in recipes where chicory or curly endive is called for. Better yet, the growing plant repels mosquitoes. The rue patch in my garden is the only safe place to stand during the stinging season. A word of warning though: some people develop a rash when handling rue, particularly on hot days.

In pre-World War II Hungary, boiled beef was more a way of life than a meal. Every boiled beef connoisseur had his own particular favorite cut of meat to be used in its preparation and Budapest restaurants could provide upwards of thirty different cuts with which to meet specific demands.... My own favorite cut is the brisket, which has its by-product the greatest soup. No arguments countenanced.

Hungarian Boiled Beef

Wash 5-lbs. brisket and put the meat in a Dutch oven with 2½ qts. water. Bring the water to a boil and skim the surface until no scum appears. Lower the heat and simmer the meat for 1½ hours. Add 2 onions, halved, 2 carrots, 1 stalk of celery, 1 cabbage leaf, 1 small turnip, 1 tsp. fresh or ½ tsp. dried each of tarragon, basil and marjoram, 10 peppercorns, 2 whole cloves, 1 allspice berry, 4 tbs. cider vinegar, 1 tbs. salt and ½ tbs. chopped fresh rue or chicory or ½ tsp. dried chicory. Cover the pot and simmer the beef over very low heat for 2 hours. Let rest 20 minutes before slicing. Serve the boiled beef with horseradish sauce or with sour sorrel sauce.

Sour Sorrel Sauce

Remove the stems and large veins and chop crosswise enough sorrel to make one cup. In a saucepan saute the sorrel in 1½ tbs. butter over low heat for 1 or 2 minutes. Blend in 1 tbs. flour. Slowly add ½ cup of the soup in which the beef cooked, stirring constantly. As the mixture simmers add 2 tbs. sour cream, ½ tsp. fresh tarragon crushed in the palm of the hand or a pinch of dried tarragon. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce should cook for no more than five minutes in all, to preserve the fresh delectability of the sorrel.