Since I’m generally a big wimp, I stayed far away from the so-called stingers for years before my curiosity finally got the better of me. I picked up a package of the scary greens from Knoll Farms via my co-op, and beat the nettles into submission, using a pair of tongs to drown them in boiling water. I then froze them in an ice water bath, and finally wrung the little buggers dry.
Look for nettles at farmer’s markets in the winter and spring, or forage for them (carefully) in forests. Though if you can’t find nettles, or prefer a green that doesn’t fight back, broccoli rabe makes a fine substitute.
One year ago:
Winter Vegetable Noodle Curry
Two years ago:
Butterscotch Pudding (I just made this again last night – we still love it as much as ever)
Three years ago:
Citrus Cornmeal Poundcake
2 medium cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
zest of 1 small lemon
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of pesto (from above)
8 ounces fresh pasta (such as linguine)
8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, squeezed of excess oil and slivered
8 oil-cured olives, smashed, pitted and chopped fairly fine
1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata (about 2 ounces)
4 tablespoons sliced almonds, lightly toasted (from above)
Make the pesto:
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath and set it aside. Rinse the nettles, touching them only with tongs or gloved hands, then plunge them into the boiling water until they wilt and turn bright green, about 30 seconds. Drain the nettles, then dump them into the ice bath. When they have cooled, drain them again and squeeze out the excess water (their spines will not be stingy anymore, so you can use your bare hands).
Place the blanched and drained nettles in a food processor with the 6 tablespoons of almonds, garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and salt. Blend until smooth-ish, then slowly pour in the olive oil with the motor running until you have a homogenous, green paste. You will have about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups. Store the pesto in the fridge until needed; it will stay green for about a week.
Make the pasta:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of the hot water to the 1/2 cup of pesto and stir to combine (this will warm and loosen the pesto, helping it coat the pasta). Have the other ingredients ready to go.
Boil the fresh pasta for 1-2 minutes (or as the package instructs). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water (in case you need to moisten the pasta some more), then drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. Toss with the pesto, tomatoes, olives, cheese and almonds (reserving some for garnish if you like), moistening it with more pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Serve immediately.