Tender Nettle Spring Tease

Stinging nettles bravely pierce through the early morning mist, an omen of the fertile unfurling to come. Chilly bones rise to greet the sun, shivering as shadows pass, still hopeful, anticipating sweet sun kisses. Creamy roasted roots thether emerald nettle tops; melting stiff lips that whisper like lovers, the promises of spring.

Creamy Nettle Soup
With roasted potatoes and parsnips

Yields 4-6 servings.

Ingredients:
2 medium onions (approx 2.5 cups chopped in half-moon shapes)
6 medium- large potatoes (approx 8 cups chopped in bite sized pieces)
2.5 cups parsnips cut into bite sized chunks
8 cups nettle leaves (cleaned with stalks removed)
A handful of arugula greens for topping

3 tbsp butter or oil
1.5 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or 1/2 cup white wine)
3 cups of liquid (water or real chicken broth to taste)

Equipment needed:

  • Soup pot
  • Steamer, double boiler or a sieve on a pot
  • Roasting pan
  • Emerson blender, or food processor

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°.
  2. Wash the parsnips and potatoes and then chop them into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with enough oil to moisten them. Roast them in a roasting pan until tender (approx 20-30 min).
  3. While the vegetables cook, chop the onions into thin slices. In a soup pot melt the butter on low heat. Add the onions, salt and spices and let simmer until the onions are soft and translucent.
  4. While the onions cook, carefully (with rubber gloves if necessary) wash and drain the nettles. Steam them in a pan or pot until they are well cooked. They should still have a bright green color but be very soft and easy to chew.
  5. When the onions have cooked add the apple cider. Continue to gently simmer until the liquid has evaporated. (Alternatively you could use a half-cup of white wine).
  6. Combine the nettles and onions and purée with an emerson blender, or a food processor. Add a small amount of water or broth if necessary.
  7. When the potatoes and parsnips have cooked, purée half of them using water to bring them to a smooth creamy consistency. Use the other half to add as chunks to the soup.
  8. Combine everything in a pot. Stir until consistent, using any remaining broth or water to bring it to the desired thickness.
  9. Add extra salt and pepper to taste. Top with arugula just before serving.

Links:

The parsnips, potatoes and onions all came from Ben at Longspell Farm. They were remarkably tender and sweet, especially at this time of year.

The nettles were lovingly harvested by farmer extraordinaire Amy Lounder at Tap Root Farm. The tops were just starting to come up, so we have plenty of time to get acquainted and write more recipes about the mighty stinging nettle.

The arugula came from Goldfinch Farm.

The apple cider came from Boates Family Farm.

All of the farms are conveniently located close to my home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and all except Tap Root sell at the Wolfville Farmers Market. 

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All I Want

Meandering through the Gaspereau Valley, memories of France and falling in love with food for the first time mingle with the uncertainty of starting a new chapter. Everything is unknown and new again, that’s how it goes. New chapters stimulate growth, a larger capacity for tenderness and a different lens for perceiving life. I circle back around to what seems like the same passage repeating, yet each time just a little further up the mountain path. Even though the scenery is strikingly similar, I’m still the same. I still want the same things; connection with nature, internal stillness, pure food, a simple spacious life, rich relationships and a community to share it with.

Radish & Apple Salad
1 bunch of purple mild radish
1 bunch long red mild radish
1 bunch regular red mild radish
1 bunch white hakurai turnip
2 med sized crunchy sweet apples (jonagold are nice)

* Various radish colors, shapes and flavors are available at The Hutten Family Farm stand at the Historic Farmers Market in Halifax.

Dressing:
3 tbsp olive oil (or other good quality cold pressed oil)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
dash of sea salt

Optional:
1 tsp chopped fresh mint (I happened to have some coming up in the garden)
a handful of pea shoots ( I happened to have a small forest of them growing on my kitchen table)

  1. Chop the radishes and turnips into quarters
  2. Chop the apples into bite sized chunks.
  3. Mix the dressing ingredients together and toss everything except for the pea shoots together. Top with the pea shoots and serve.

That’s Just How I Roll

No matter how many cooks and farmers have come before me, I will always discover something new based on the season, my region, my health and the song I happen to be listening to at the time. We need to eat and we need to create, so there will never be an end. The more we create the more we want to create and explore and expand our minds to all the possibilities for beauty. If feeding yourself healthy, delicious food seems like a chore, I suggest you give your head a shake and reflect on how very privileged you are that you can even have that thought. Rather then feeling guilty about it, rouse your inner child, cancel ridiculous obligations that you don’t give a damn about, smash your TV, call in well, turn up the music and get messy in your kitchen.

Spring Salad Rolls with Tahini Dip

Rice papers
Green or purple cabbage cut into fine strands
Carrots shredded or in match sticks
Sprouts
Apples cut into match sticks and tossed with lemon juice
Spinach or any greens cut into long strands
Chinese radishes
Chopped basil, mint or cilantro
Basically any seasonal vegetable that strike your fancy, cut into ribbons or match sticks.

Optional ingredients to add UMPH:
Cooked tofu or tempeh
Avocado
Slices of an omlette
Seaweed
Soaked sunflower seeds

  1. Instructions for rice paper rolls are usually on the package. They are found in the imported or Asian food section of the grocery store.  (Avoid rice products from the US of A as they have been known to dump lots of arsenic in their water).
  2. Stack up all the yummy pre-cut vegetables, roll them up in the rice paper, slice in half and then double dip them in the tahini sauce. If anyone says anything about double dipping give them the stink eye and say “suck it” yup that’s right “suck it”. It’s purely culinary.

Tahini Dip
Yields about 1 cup

4 tbsp Tahini
2 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Tamari (or to taste. I was using homemade tamari which is more mild then the store bought kind)
½ tsp Minced garlic
1 tsp Lemon juice

  1. Mix all the ingredients together with a fork until smooth.
  2. That’s it.
  3. Eat it.
  4. Or suck it….off the salad roll.