Saturday, May 16, 2009
Okay, so today I was at the farmer's market downtown, and Dolway Organic was selling stinging nettles. I'd heard about these things. There were all sorts of signs posted at the Dolway stall, saying don't eat the nettles raw - they're supposed to be prickly, or something.
Good thing they came pre-packaged in plastic. Which is like an organic oxymoron. But anyhow. I bought one bag.
When I got home I totally wanted to cook something with them right away. I pulled out one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison. I figured if anybody could tell me how to cook nettles, she could.
I didn't find any recipes using nettles, but Madison did share some interesting facts... like how saints use to eat nettle broth for sustenance, or something. And how nettles are supposed to be an amazing green colour when they're cooked. Awesome. I am totally going to eat nettle broth all the time if I ever become a saint.
So basically I was on my own. I started with one leek. Sorry, I didn't take any pictures of the leek before I cut off the tough, dark green parts. Basically you just chop off the leaves, and remove a couple of the outer layers, and then make a slice lengthways through the leek without actually cutting it in half. Leeks tend to be sandy, and you need to wash out all the dirt, like I'm doing above.
When the leek is washed, chop it roughly. Honest, this is me trying not to be compulsive about the widths of the chops.
Heat some olive oil in a soup pot.
Add the chopped leeks, and saute them until soft.
In the meantime, if you're feeling adventurous, you can keep yourself busy with an activity like washing five large potatoes. I do this kind of multi-tasking all the time. Which is probably why so many of my recipes end up burnt.
Because I wanted a good picture for y'all, I kept my eye on those leeks. Right here they are perfectly sauteed. If you still have some other stuff to do (like chopping the potatoes, below), you might want to take the pot off the heat for a little while. Just saying.
My awesomely chopped potatoes.
Add the chopped potatoes to the pot and fill with enough water to cover everything, plus about another inch of water. Or soup stock. You could use soup stock instead of water. I totally forgot about all the soup stock I have frozen in my freezer. Doh.
Okay, now this was totally the most nerve-wracking part of the recipe. Like I did not want to touch those nettles, okay? I just upended the whole bag into the pot. I'm thinking at this point that maybe I've misjudged how many potatoes I should haven't added. (sic)
Luckily the nettle leaves poked down into the pot without any trouble (although I did worry about touching the cooking spatula to anything else, and haplessly transferring raw stinging nettle needles). I think there was something else I wanted to tell you at this point, but I forget what it was.
Here are the cooked potatoes and nettles. (And leeks.) I think everything took about 35 minutes, after the water started boiling. Oh - I remember what I wanted to tell you. I was kind of worried, when I put the nettles in the pot, that I should have removed some of the stems. There were a lot of stems. But I was not interested in putting on some surgical gloves just to pluck off all those leaves... so I left the stems. To be honest, I didn't even wash the nettles. I'm hoping that they washed them at the organic farm. They do that kind of thing, right? I'm sure they would pre-wash things like stinging nettles. Kind of like a public courtesy. Oh well - if they weren't washed, this soup may be a little gritty, that's all. If you're ever foolish enough to actually try making a soup out of LEAVES THAT CAN MAKE YOUR HANDS ALL ITCHY IF YOU ACCIDENTALLY TOUCH THEM, I'll leave that judgement call about washing them up to you.
(In the meantime, I'm feeling pretty sorry for the poor fool who first figured out that you shouldn't eat nettles raw...)
Put the cooked vegetables in a blender with enough water to cover the solids, and puree the soup in small batches. And by small, I mean whatever size you're comfortable splashing all over your kitchen if the blender lid should malfunction.
This is the pureed soup. I'm still waiting for the amazing green colour to materialize.
(True aside: My notebook touch pad is malfunctioning, and when my thumbs pass near it while typing, my cursor tends to randomly fly somewhere else on the screen. Which is not so endearing when it ends up in the middle of the code for the photos, and I need to delete text without screwing up the code. Like right now...)
When you have pureed all the soup, add salt (or Herbamare, my favorite seasoning) to taste. Somebody was asking me what "to taste" meant. (Actually, nobody asked - but I figure some of you might wonder). Basically, it means that you TASTE the soup, and if your first impression is, Wow! I would totally pay $15 for the privilege of eating a tiny bowl of this soup in an overpriced restaurant, then you don't need any more salt. If, on the other hand, your first impression is, Meh, you might want to add a bit more salt. Unless by "meh" you mean, OMG this stuff is WAY too salty, in which case I'm sorry to inform you that you've just wasted a $5 bag of organic nettles.
The finished soup. It was really good, and not at all gritty - so I'm pretty sure they did pre-wash the nettles.
I didn't really mean to post this photo. Most of you probably don't bottle your soup in canning sealers and freeze it in single-size portions for the following week's lunches. I sometimes get carried away with the camera, though. Sorry.
BTW, I made another recipe today, but it didn't turn out nearly as well as the nettle soup recipe. And by "didn't turn out nearly as well," I mean it was basically a total fiasco. Story and photos to come, likely tomorrow. In the meantime, check out these awesome day-old mini cupcakes and fudge that I bought inside Covent Garden this morning. The fudge, BTW, got totally eaten during the fiasco cleanup.
Oops. I guess I forgot to edit a photo of the fudge. Sorry. But those cupcakes are awesome, eh?