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