Oh, how much I love early summer Saturday mornings. These slow days of the week when the sun is bright and happy, and warmly invites you to enjoy its kisses all day long. Saturdays are happy days for me and I have always found something graceful about them. A day when everything happens in a perfect speed – neither too slow nor too fast. Every moment appears in the right time and it lasts just as long as it should. Peacefully. Lovingly. One moment leads seamlessly to the next one in a perfect graceful manner.
I love to wake up early (hey, but not too early!) on Saturday and head out to my new favorite city farmers market. There is nothing like grabbing a freshly baked croissant (or maybe a few more – you never know how much you will like them) from the bakery stand, a cup of hot coffee, some beautiful peonies and then wonder around for an hour or so while filling my bag with everything that nature is giving us at this time of the year. This particular farmers market is small and it doesn’t have a huge selection of produce, but I find it to be a wonderful gathering community of people who love their city and who appreciate everyone that grows or makes food locally. In essence, it reminds me of European cities where farmers markets appear right in their hearths and are inseparable parts of the local community.
I never know what I will find at the market and I love the feeling of discovery. In that early summer day the peas, leafy greens, herbs and garlic scapes are in season, I even spotted some fresh nnettle and pea shoots. I decided to grab some beautiful greens, plus some never tried, or never tried produce and make something out of it. I filled my bag with pea shoots (first time for me ever), nettle, fresh spinach and mint and headed home.
I wanted to use all the produce in the same recipe and to retain the freshness of the beautiful greens. For some reason (and totally unrelated to this post) lately I have been thinking of gnocchi, so I decided to make pea shoots and nettle dumplings .
If you haven’t tried nettle one thing you should know is that it sting, so be careful when handling it (if necessary, use gloves). It has a unique flavor and it has been known for centuries for its purifying medicinal qualities. Nettle is at its best in late spring and early summer and you can forage it yourself or get it (quite cheap) at the local farmers market. Blanch or sauté nettle to remove the stinging or add directly to soups.
For this recipe, I sautéed all the greens separately, since each takes a different amount of time to wilt. This reduces their volume and released the juices. Then I squeezed the juices out so the filling is not watery and loose and added some fresh mint, ricotta and lemon zest. I added a small amount of four, just enough to hold everything together, which made the dumplings soft. Then I boiled them and sautéd them in butter (a good quantity of it), just as you would do with gnocchi, and this made them soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Most spinach and ricotta dumplings are served with tomato sauce but I like them served with cherry tomatoes and olives lightly drizzled with olive oil.
I loved the result and hope you make the recipe and enjoy it too. Until the next time my friends.
Spinach, Nettle and Pea Shoots Dumplings
• 1 bag (125 gr) baby spinach leaves
• 1 cup (loose) fresh nettle
• 2 cups (loosely) pea shoots (leaves only)
• 1 cup (200 gr) fresh ricotta
• 2/3 cup (50 gr) finely grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
• 5 spring onions, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (chopped) plus extra to serve
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 1/3 cup (50 gr) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 2 eggs
• 4-5 tbsp (45 gr) butter
• 1 1/2 cups (300 gr) halved cherry tomatoes
• 1/3 cup kalamata olives (pit removed)
Drizzle a large notstick skillet with some olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the spinach (in batches, if necessary), a pinch of salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Transfer to a bowl and repeat the process with the nettle and the pea shoots. Place all wilted greens on 2 sheets of paper towel and squeeze the water.
Meanwhile, heat a medium pot with water until it starts boiling. Place the wilted greens and rest of the ingredients (except butter) in a large bowl and mix until a sticky dough is formed and add salt and pepper to taste. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and roll in the extra butter. Drop the dumplings (in batches) into the hot water, making sure the boil is gentle and not vigorous, otherwise they can fall apart. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Toss the tomatoes and olives in a bowl and add olive oil and salt to taste and set aside. Place half of the butter in a large nonstick skillet, heat over medium-high heat and add half of the dumplings. Cook until golden brown (2-3 minutes), then flip and cook on the other side. Place on a plate lined with paper towel and repeat with the remaining butter and dumplings.
Serve while still warm with a side of the tomato/olive salad, extra Parmesan and extra mint leaves.