Nettle is one of those magical greens that marks the beginning of spring to me. I grew up eating seasonal produce, which meant that during the winter my diet was heavy on starch, gluten, legumes and meat. So by the end of February I would be dreaming of fresh lettuce, green onions and radishes (basically anything green and fresh out of the ground) and salivating only by the thought of it. I remember eating nettle early in the spring before much other greens were out yet. My mom always made nettle, spinach and sorel soups. And my memories of them were that I either hated them or loved them, but the distinct flavor of nettle somehow stuck with me and now, at a later age, it brings cravings in me like no other. As April approaches I walk like a mad woman through the co-op or the very first farmers market with the hope to spot some nettle tops. And when I finally find them I make the dishes I grew up with to bring those memories back and to satisfy my cravings . Then I venture out to something new to keep creativity alive and to spark ideas and possibilities (see my previous blog post about Nettle Dumplings/Gnudi). My new favorite dish, as of this spring, is this lovely nettle and spinach puree with walnuts, ramps and mint. It is so simple, easy and quick to make and when served with a fresh poached egg it transforms into a luxurious everyday dish like no other. The puree is creamy, velvety and it bursts with fresh spring flavor. The nettle taste is prominent yet balanced by the other ingredients, and the poached egg gives buttery, velvety and rich texture when broken and swirled in the puree.
I say this almost every time and I will say it again this time – I hope you try this wonderful and simple dish and I hope with all my heart that it either inspires you to roam through your local farmers market for some spring veggies or to cook an old spring favorite of yours that sparks wonderful memories of sun, green grass, family and love.
P.S. Tell me how it turned out for you.
Nettle and Spinach Puree with Poached Egg
• 2 cups nettle leaves, packed (use gloves when handing since it might sting you)
• 2 cups fresh spinach, packed
• 2 garlic cloves
• 3 ramps, chopped
• 2 long stems of young spring onion, thinly sliced, reserving the flowers (if you can’t find young onion add an extra ramp)
• Olive oil
• 1/2 tsp of salt
• 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts, plus few more for garnish
• Juice of 1/4 lemon
• 4 poached eggs
• Handful of mint leaves
In a medium sauce pan heat 2 tbs of olive oil, add nettle, spinach, garlic, ramps, young spring onion (if using) and salt. Using a wooden spoon mix the mixture a few times until the oil coats the greens and they start to wilt. Cook for about a minute or two until the greens are wilted but still fresh and green. Add 3/4 cups of water, bring to a boil and gently simmer for 2 more minutes. Take off the heat and add the mixture into a blender (hand blender works well too) together with the walnuts and the lemon juice. Puree until creamy and lush. If the puree is too thick add a bit more water. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
Ladle puree into 4 pasta bowls, place a poached egg in each one, sprinkle with few of the mint leaves, the reserved onion flowers (if using), the extra chopped walnuts and black pepper.