Monday, 31 March 2014

Nettle "pesto"

Few blossoms turning into flowers on the branches of the tree i see from my bedroom, gave me the final confirmation that spring has arrived. And that means, among other things, to plant again herbs by the window and look for herbs in the markets around town. In one of those tours i came across some amazingly fresh nettles, which reminded me of my childhood (stung naked calves, ouch!) and, most importantly, of how good and healthy they are. The easiest way to enjoy the explosion of flavors of nettles is to make a pesto, have some quality linguine al dente and feel like being on the Riviera. I found this great recipe by Hank Shaw, which is very well explained and easy to follow.
I just took the freedom to add a dash of lemon and lime juice, which gives a kick to the fresh notes of the herbs and provides a bit of acidity (it will make a nice combination with, for instance, a chilled glass of Vermentino)


This makes a little more than 1/2 cup of very green, very pretty pesto. Store any unused pesto in the fridge, topped with some olive oil to keep the air out.
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 
6-8 tablespoons blanched, chopped nettles
Extra virgin Olive oil 
A dash of organic lemon juice
A dash of organic lime juice

You must first blanch the nettles before making this pesto. This is how: 

  1. You will need two or three big tong-fulls of fresh nettles for this recipe. I say tong-fulls because you do not want to pick up fresh nettles, as they will sting you. Thus the name. Get a huge pot of water boiling and add a handful of salt.
  2. Grab the nettles with tongs and put them into the boiling water. Stir around and boil for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Fish them out with a skimmer or the tongs and immediately dump them into a big bowl with ice water in it. Once they are cool, put them in a colander to strain.
  4. Get a cloth towel, like a tea towel, and put the nettles in it. Wrap one end of the towel one way, then the other end of the towel the other and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
  5. Pesto is best made with a mortar and pestle, thus the name, which means “pound.’ You can make this in a food processor, but it will not be the same. First add the toasted pine nuts and crush lightly — as they are roundish, they will jump out of your mortar if you get too vigorous.
  6. Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the mortar, then pound a little.
  7. Add the salt, cheese and the nettles and commence pounding. Mash everything together, stirring with the pestle and mashing well so it is all fairly uniform.
  8. Start adding olive oil. How much? Depends on how you are using your pesto. If you are making a spread, maybe 2 tablespoons. If a pasta sauce, like i did, double that or more. Either way, you add 1 tablespoon at a time, pounding and stirring to incorporate it. Add just a dash of lemon and lime juice, stir and the pesto is ready.

No comments:

Post a Comment