t h e p e r f e c t recipe Tame the tasty nettle 60 www. n A PAVA L L E Y L I F Emagaz ine . com NAPA VALLEY Visit us today to enjoy our distinguished wines, contemporary artwork beautifully manicured gardens and an unparalleled Napa Valley experience. Wine Tasting 10 - 6 daily Peju Province Winery 8466 St. Helena Hwy. Rutherford Ca 94573 800.446.7358 - peju .com The Adventurous Kitchen by chef ken frank Over the last few years I’ve developed a fascination with stinging nettles. They thrive in moist climates around the world and have long been celebrated for their medicinal properties. Nettles are truly a wonder plant, but are still delegated to the “oddity” category far too often. Other than the sting, which is easily avoided by wearing gloves and completely neutralized by either soaking or cooking, there’s nothing to dislike. Something this good for you and so tasty should not be ignored. They are easy to grow; they naturalize here and will return year after year, growing back on their rhizomes. If they do get out of control, they’re easily controlled by tilling. An excellent “companion” plant, they attract beneficial insects to the garden. There are few better winterspring cover crops to grow than nettles. Extremely rich in nitrogen, nettles are used as a compost starter, and nettle tea is well known as an excellent fertilizer. It is in the kitchen, however, that nettles really shine. They are nutritious, delicious and versatile. Nettle leaves flavor the bloom on one of my favorite fresh spring cheeses, St. Pat. They’re delicious baked on pizza or can be substituted for basil when out of season to make terrific pesto for a variety of uses. Cooked in butter with a little garlic and pureed, nettles are an easy, almost instant sauce for pasta. One of the best ways to appreciate their flavor is to make nettle and potato soup. Bon appétit! Netle & Potat o Soup 3 cups stinging nettle leaves, loosely packed 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced ½ cup diced yellow onion 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 5 cups rich chicken or vegetable stock 1 cup heavy cream Salt Fresh ground white pepper Cave-aged Gruyere (optional) Cook the diced onion in the butter over medium heat in a heavy soup pot. When the onion is translucent and tender, add the thinly sliced potato, the stock and pre-season with salt and some fresh ground white pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer slowly for a good 30 minutes, until the potatoes are falling apart. While the soup is cooking, rinse and pluck three cups of stinging nettle leaves. Wear gloves! To finish the soup, add the nettle leaves to the pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add one cup of heavy cream and puree with an immersion blender. Strain if you prefer a velvety smooth consistency. Verify and adjust seasoning as needed to taste. I like this soup served with a little finely grated aged Gruyere cheese on top.
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