Adventures in Extreme Eating

On Saturday, I picked up my second week of vegetables from the Upper Meadow Farm CSA distribution. I was so looking forward to trying more new and nutritious organic veggies. This week, my share included: stinging nettle, lambsquarter, cardoon, baby garlic, sorrel, and dandelion greens. Not bad!

When living in Santa Barbara last year, I was blessed with the convenience of a garden in my very own backyard. One of the things I frequently found was a hearty supply of stinging nettle – though the only purpose of nettle I knew of was its supreme ability to give me hives. It seems funny that I now live across the country and am paying for this stuff. Well, stinging nettle actually has some amazing medicinal and nutritional value. Yes, you have to handle it with care before cooking (i.e. gloves and tongs), but once cooked, the poisonous venom transforms into a nutritious substance. Here’s where my “extreme eating” comes into play. It’s like the vegetarian version of fugu, minus the risk of death.

So today, I tried out a recipe which incorporated three of my fresh ingredients. It turned out magnificently! Please give it a try if you have this stuff growing around your backyard or at the local farmer’s market:

Pasta with Nettles, Sorrel and Lemon
Serves 2 to 4

1/4 lb. fresh stinging nettles
8 oz. pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. fresh ricotta cheese
1 lemon for zest and juice
1 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small handful of fresh sorrel leaves, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil. One will be fore the pasta and the other for the nettles. When the water comes to a boil in one of the pots, “carefully” add the nettles and give them a stir. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer them to a colander with a slotted spoon. You want to leave any dirt or grit in the cooking water. Let the nettle drain. Add the pasta to the other pot of clean water and cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, press most of the water out of the nettles, transfer them to a food processor and puree. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until completely smooth. Add the ricotta, lemon zest and juice, and herbs. Pulse the processor to blend all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Remove a cup of the water the pasta is cooking in and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Toss in the nettle ricotta cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the fresh sorrel and a little of the reserved pasta water to create the desired consistency of the sauce. Stir in the walnuts and serve.

It turned out great! I enjoyed this for lunch and shared some with Brian, who also loved it. Very fresh-tasting and refreshing. It also feels good to know you are eating something so fresh and healthy. Bon appetit!

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Extreme Eating

  1. Lore June 16, 2008 / 3:26 pm

    Sounds great. Boy what stroke of luck it would be to have you for a room mate. How did the play go? Oma

  2. Backcut June 30, 2008 / 8:17 am

    Well, on my current assignment in Mackay, Idaho, we’ve been running into TONS of stinging nettle. My project of finding, satellite mapping and interpretation of aspen stands provides an abundance of the nasty stuff. I’ll find a picture that shows how thick it can be in the wetter areas here.On a sideline, a few months ago I saw a newsblurb that covered the stinging nettle eating contest. People stuff RAW nettles into their mouths and chew, chew, CHEW! Their expressions were…..ummmm…..priceless!

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