Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nettle soup!

Just finished a delicious lunch of soup and salad, and wanted to report in on my first experience eating nettles. Fabulous! I was worried at first, when I was prepping the nettles, because they smelled so bitter and strange. In soup, however, they toned down to a pleasant earthiness and a fun texture. Here's how the recipe went together last night:

1 onion
2 ribs celery
1 large carrot
1 large clove garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, 15 oz.
bay leaf
large canellini beans, about 2 cups cooked
white wine (red would also work)
crushed red pepper (optional)
6-8 cups nettles (leaves and stems, see prepping note below)
1-2 teaspoons tamari sauce (to taste)

Heat the lipid of your choice (olive oil, butter, etc.) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Chop up the first four ingredients into nicely diced pieces and saute the mirepoix until it is fragrant and starting to become golden. Add enough wine to cover the vegetables and simmer to cook down. Add the can of diced tomatoes and a can full of water. Add the bay leaf and crushed red pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked beans, the prepped nettles tamari sauce. Add more water, or broth, as desired to reach your favorite level of stew/soupiness. Simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes.

This made four hearty servings. Two are currently in my freezer, so that I have the makings of a quick lunch some work day in the future.

After being forewarned by the lady at the farmers' market regarding the stinging power of nettles, even after they've been picked, I decided to give them a little extra prep work. You could, of course, just wear gloves and skip this step. What I did was place a towel-lined colander in my sink, dump in the nettles from their bag, and then pour boiling water over everything. I let it cool for a bit, then picked up the ends of the towel to wrap around the greenery and wrung it out. Then the nettles went on the cutting board and got chopped up. The stems were relatively tender and edible, but were not the most wonderful textural addition ever. If you feel so inclined, with your gloves on, strip the leaves from the stems while raw and discard the latter. Then you can just add the leaves to the pot.

My lunch today was a fantastic example of the glories of my farmers' market. The onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and nettles for the soup all came fresh from there. My salad consisted of baby greens, grated carrot, sliced radishes, a hardboiled pastured egg, plus olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, and only the vinegar came from the grocery store. I'm just tickled by all the whole, real foods I am able to eat.

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