This global weirdness we are experiencing has an upside this month…the nettles are out early! If you have been reading my blog awhile, you already know how I love them. Once you learn their prickly ways, you can use them almost anywhere you might use cooked spinach. Be careful picking them, as they can sting. (I use my kitchen tongs and just get the very tops.) Once I’ve gathered enough, I bring the bowlful to my nose and take in their figgy aroma. Packed with nutrition, nettles have a bit stronger flavor (and better in my book) than spinach , so if you are shy, just mix a handful in with your trusted cooked greens wherever you use them.
In the very early spring, I love to serve sweet pea soup with nettles and mint.It is an easy enough recipe (hard to fumble, I thought!) Just sauté diced onion in butter until translucent (so as not to get in the way of the bright green color and delicate flavor). Throw in the nettles, some mint, salt, and finally the peas, cooking just enough to take the sting out of the nettles and brighten up the green color of the peas, then blend. There you should have a bright, delicate, delicious soup. (I’d say even ‘intoxicating’, but nettles are said to have detoxifying properties!)
I used this recipe last week in one of my classes. One particularly adorable student, Aitor, got started on the onions, and when I came back to check on him, he was still stirring them faithfully into
a rich brown toastiness. I said to him, “Aitor, Darling! This will help bring up the flavor (all those brown bits of onion at the bottom of the pan), but sadly, we will probably not have a bright green gorgeous soup!” I threw in some dry white wine to deglaze the pan, and continued making the soup, hoping for the best.
Well, best it was! The soup still came out a gorgeous spring green, with even more layers of delicate flavor with the deglazing and the wine! Thanks, Aitor! This soup’s for you!
Aitor’s Sweet Pea and Nettle Soup — serves 4
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
1 cup nettles
handful of mint
2 cups frozen baby peas
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add onions and sauté until onions are a deep golden color and the pan has a little browning on the bottom. Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Add water, nettles, mint and salt and bring to a simmer for a minute or two, then add the peas. Keep cooking just until the peas are turning a lovely bright green. Then place everything in a blender and blend until smooth.
Garnish with a paper-thin slice of lemon.