Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nettles! It Must Be Spring

With nettles popping up on everyone’s menu these last few weeks, I decided I had to try them myself. Or rather, try them again. When I was in middle school, I learned how to pick nettles without stinging myself (and without gloves) and set out to make nettle tea. But I forgot the cleaning step, and my tea tasted like mud. My tea was mud.
So last week, with my fearless friends, I headed out to hunt for nettles. They were young and about six inches high, which is great for eating because they are tender and you can still eat the stalks, but made them a bit hard to find. Once we got the hang of it though, we were nettle harvesting machines. Though no particular step was difficult, there were many steps.

We found them and clipped them.
This time, we decided to wash them.
Then we blanched them and squeezed out all the water.
Chopped and sautéed them, and put them on pizza. We made a few kinds. My favorite was a thinly veiled version of the nettle pizza at Delancey last week: nettles, caramelized onions, and ricotta.

Pizza Dough
This is my trusty pizza dough recipe from Martha Stewart, many years back. Never fails to deliver flavorful, crispy, thin crust. Works well on the grill or in the oven.

2 cups warm water
½ t sugar
2 packets active dry yeast
3T olive oil
6 cups flour
1T Kosher salt

  • Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl until the yeast has dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Mix flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast water. Knead for 5 minutes.  (You can do this by hand if you don't have a mixer.)
  • Turn the dough onto a floured counter, make it into a ball, and put it in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 40-60 minutes, until doubled.
  • Punch it down, fold it over a few times, make it into a ball again, put it back in the bowl, cover and let it rise for another 40-60 minutes.
  • Turn the dough onto the floured counter and cut it into 6 chunks. Knead each chunk into a ball and cover 5 of them with plastic. Flatten the remaining ball into a little disc and let it sit for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up, remove another ball and flatten it. Then roll the rested disc into a pizza crust (8-10 inches in diameter). Repeat with all the dough balls.
  • You can store the uncooked crusts, layered with parchment and wrapped with plastic, for a few days. When you’re ready to cook, oil them generously, top them sparingly, and cook as hot as you can for 5-10 minutes. My oven goes to 550 degrees, and the bbq gets hotter.


Kathryn said...

Couldn't be better weather for nettle hunting, the crust sounds doable, thanks for the dinner party idea.

pleasantcompany said...

I'm sure you'll love it. Let me know how it goes!

David said...

This is a work of art...just like you!!! Thanks for your creative and bubbly spirit...even in the kitchen. Stop over and see Cobalt.

Meadow Linn said...

I remember learning to harvest nettles in middle school with Mr. Jamieson in Collegium! Your photos are fabulous. I'm hungry for exotic Northwest cuisine!

pleasantcompany said...

David, thanks! What is Cobalt? I went to the cobalt blogspot site and somehow I don't think that's what you're talking about.

Meadow, yes! Mr Jamieson was great, wasn't he? I learned so many crazy things about the Northwest from him.

Nikki K said...

Last Friday, we were going out to eat and Olivar, Poppy and Dinette all had nettles on their menu. Where do you go to pick them?

PS: Martha's Everyday Food also has a whole wheat pizza dough recipe, which is pretty good:

pleasantcompany said...

Yes Nikki, nettles are all the rage right now! I got mine at an undisclosed location near my parents house, ;) but i saw a TON yesterday when I was running in Discovery Park. Not sure how legal it is to harvest there, but worth a shot.

MSW said...

Abby! I was inspired by the nettel pizza (which Heidi recounted in full, delicious detail) and so I set about my own project: nettel risotto. I blanched and pureed it, removing some of the gnarly stems. I stirred it in about three minutes before the risotto was done, along with a final splash of wine. Dig it! It was good.

pleasantcompany said...

MSW: Oooo! Nettle risotto sounds awesome. Nice work!