Stinging Velvet

Cooking with an ingredient that bites you back? Hey, why not.

I had been curious about stinging nettles for a while now, so when I saw them at the farmers’ market on Saturday, I decided to pick some up and figure out what to do with them later. Prepping them was a bit of a challenge, but in the end it was well worth the effort.

Since I hadn’t worked with them before, my first order of business was to check Food Blog Search for inspiration. Soup appeared to be the most popular preparation, and it seemed like a straightforward dish that would enable me to really highlight the flavor of the nettles.

proceed with caution

Figuring out how best to clean the prickly little buggers was my next step, and I decided not to leave anything to chance. I donned a new pair of thick latex gloves while I pulled the leaves from the stems, and I made sure the prickly bits were safely discarded before proceeding. I had read that a quick dip in boiling water also helps to neutralize their sting, so I planned to blanch the nettle leaves as well.

I started the soup the same way I do my potato soup, melting a chunk of butter in the Le Creuset, adding chopped leek and cooking it until soft, then adding diced peeled potato (3 smallish ones), salt, pepper, water and thyme leaves. While the soup base cooked, I got a smaller pot of water boiling in which to blanch the nettles.

puree

When I had removed all of the nettle leaves – carefully! – from the stems, I added them to the boiling water and let them cook for two minutes. I removed the leaves from the water using a spider, gently pressing out the excess water with a wooden spoon, and placed the softened leaves into my food processor. While the blade turned, I dribbled in about ¼ cup of cold tap water, just to loosen up the mixture and cool it down a bit.

I then added the nettle puree to the potato/leek base, simmering it another 10 minutes or so before blending it with a stick blender until velvety smooth. The soup could have taken a bit of crème fraiche or heavy cream, but I decided to preserve its vivid green color and float a couple of chevre-chive toasts on top of the soup instead.

Dinner:  May 5, 2008

This looked and tasted like springtime in a bowl. We finished every last drop.

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13 thoughts on “Stinging Velvet

  1. Jennifer Hess says:

    They tasted… very green. 🙂 The flavor wasn’t particularly strong or sharp, but they had a really nice freshness to them. Midway between spinach and arugula, maybe?

  2. Aimee says:

    A friend of mine swears by nettles. They are good for your adrenals, apparently. She throws them in to stir fry, salads, pickles them, you name it.

  3. Christine says:

    I had nettles wilted into a pappardelle with trumpet mushrooms last spring. It was a favorite taste memory. I felt like they had a little richer taste than spinach, but not as sharp as a lot of greens, maybe like a bright tender kale.

  4. This looked and tasted like springtime in a bowl. We finished every last drop.

    I have always wondered about nettles and I have always been scared. Now I can’t wait to try them!

  5. gemma says:

    Try nettles risotto and frittata with nettle and taste with a Trebbiano di Capriano del Colle or a Chiannavesca (from Nebbiolo grape) – white wines.

  6. Marcos Castrillon says:

    Oh, God, Ortigas. I once fell down into a crevasse covered with them. It was very, very dangerous.

    They are everywhere ’round here.

  7. Marcos Castrillón says:

    ‘ course, I meant painful, not dangerous. When will I learn not to post in blogs while I troubleshoot?

  8. that’s so wonderful that you tried something brand new. I’ve been thrilled doing that lately.

    they tasted green? somehow that makes perfect sense. gorgeous stuff!

  9. Jennifer Hess says:

    Aimee – Oh, that’s cool. I read somewhere that they have anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s cool to know they are good for the adrenals as well.

    Christine – Mmm, that sounds lovely. And your description of their flavor is great.

    J Adamthwaite – try them!

    gemma – Wow, thanks for the suggestions and the wine pairing advice!

    Marcos – OUCH! That sounds quite unpleasant.

    melissa – I’m officially OVER the cold, boring winter. Bring on the spring and summer goodies!

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