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Archive for March, 2011

Photo by Michael Allen Smith

One of the earlier heralds of spring cooking is stinging nettles. I can usually find them in the wooded areas of Seattle starting in late February. Harvested carefully with gloves and scissors, the top 2-4 inches are a tender, welcome boost of green and mineral goodness in my kitchen. Nettles taste like a more mineral rich version of spinach, and indeed they are high in iron, calcium, and magnesium. They can be used much in the same way as spinach in recipes, except I wouldn’t recommend eating them raw on account of their stinging properties. A five-minute blanch in boiling water or cooking is all it takes to remove the sting.

One of my favorite ways to use nettles is in root vegetable soup. Vegetables like potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, and celery root are still plentiful this time of year and can help make a base for a wonderful creamy soup without dairy. You can use what ever you like of the aforementioned root vegetables in the soup below. I happen to be especially partial to the combination of Jerusalem artichokes and celery root. If you chop your root vegetables fairly small, this soup can be almost ready in 30 minutes.

Photo by Michael Allen Smith

ALMOST SPRING SOUP WITH NETTLES

  • ~1 lb of parsnips/potatoes/celery root/Jerusalem artichokes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 medium size leeks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6-8 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces (1 packed cup) of well rinsed stinging nettles or spinach
  • 1 tbsp of cooking fat (olive oil, tallow, lard, or coconut oil)
  • salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large pot.  Saute the leeks and onion on medium heat until they are starting to brown.

2. Add the broth and root vegetables. Cook about 20 minutes, until the cubes are pierced easily by a fork.

3. Add the nettles and simmer for 5 more minutes. Use a stick blender to puree the soup.

4. Salt and pepper to taste.

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