Friday, April 20, 2012

Cooking with Nettles

nettle-kopita

Yesterday I mentioned how I just recently learned that ‘stinging nettles’ and ‘nettles’ are the same thing!  Sometimes I wonder if I get out enough.

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Last Summer I spent the majority of our dog walks trying to avoid those stinging nettles that have near taken over the loop where we walk on the weekends.  Little did I know we could have been picking those bad boys and bringing them home for dinner.  It’s a field full of free greens!

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For those of you that are wondering…nettles do indeed sting!  You have to cook them to get rid of the sting so make sure you are armed with good rubber gloves right from the time you go picking, through the cleaning process, and even until you are done cooking.  No one wants an itchy, irritated cook.

But once you’ve boiled or steamed away the sting go ahead and work with these in the same way you might work with spinach, chard or kale.  I didn’t love them just steamed but mixed into the sauce of our chicken paprika they were pretty good!  I’ve heard tell of nettles making a wonderful quiche addition, or a fabulous pesto, and of course they are wildly popular for making a nutrient rich tea. 

As soon as I had this nettle epiphany my mind raced back to Heidi Fink’s blog.  I knew I had seen a nettle recipe there around this time last year and immediately went looking for it.  Sure enough, there it was.

Wild Nettle-kopita! 

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I armed myself with a fresh bag of wild stinging nettle tops (don’t bother with the leaves and stalk when picking…it’s just more work to deal with when prepping and the flavour is really in the tender top bits anyway), some baby spinach, leeks, feta and filo pastry.  I got the TV onto the latest Canucks playoff game and got to work.

Aside from dirtying more dishes than I would like, these came together rather easily.  I appreciated that Heidi gives really detailed instructions, including tips to keep your filo from drying out and driving you crazy.  :)  The only changes I made were to use regular feta instead of sheep’s milk and I couldn’t get my hands on fresh thyme so I used dried.

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I set up my rolling station on my dining table, used a pizza cutter to make the filo strips, and discovered that browned butter works as a delicious (albeit accidental) glue for these sturdy yet delicate pies.

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I am super pleased with how these turned out!  They are big, toasty, and full of healthy, green deliciousness.  My original plan was to serve a couple with a nice fresh tomato and feta salad, but honestly once they cooled I just stood at the counter and snacked away on one.  And then another.

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They reheat perfectly in the oven, freeze nicely, and clock in at only around 275 calories each according to MyFitnessPal.  Even if you don’t have wild nettles in your neck of the woods, making these with all spinach or a mix of your other favourite greens would be a good idea.

ρήμ. απολαμβάνω, χαίρομαι (Enjoy!)

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3 comments:

Reb - Life Doesn't Have to Suck blog said...

I've always been a bit scared of eating nettles, but this looks like a cool introduction.

Ingmarie said...

i love your photos! the main kopita shot is a great one especially. nice perspective and staging ;)

Chef Heidi Fink said...

Hey, those look better than mine! Thanks for the great plug, and I am so glad you enjoyed them.
Variation: I made some this year with organic low-fat cottage cheese instead of the feta and some beet greens thrown into the mix - super delicious!