Besides the fact that “stinging” is in its title, there’s no reason to be afraid of nettles. Of course anything a little outside the box can be daunting to cook with, but these prickly greens are totally worth it. Not only are they nutritionally the new kale, but nettles may even help alleviate seasonal allergies. Most importantly, they make an amazing pesto. Is there a better way to ring in Spring than with bright green homemade pesto?
I know people say you need gloves to handle them, but I used tongs the whole way and came out completely unscathed. No gardening equipment required. Besides pesto, use your nettles any way you might use spinach or leafy greens: braised, in soups, omelettes, gratins, or risotto. Better yet, try homemade nettle & artichoke dip. You will not be disappointed.
TOASTED PISTACHIO & NETTLE PESTO (Makes approximately 1 cup)
- 2 large "tongfuls" of stinging nettle leaves, de-stemmed*
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup pistachios, toasted
- 1 lemon, juice & zest
- 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated & packed
- 1;2 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- Olive oil (about 1/3-1/2 cup)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch your nettles: add leaves to a boiling pot of water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon, and add to an ice bath to cool. once greens are cool to the touch, strain and squeeze all water from the leaves.
Roughly chop the blanched greens. Add to a food processor with garlic, pistachios, lemon juice and zest, parmigiano, salt and pepper. Pulse into a coarse paste. Then stream olive oil to desired consistency or about 1/3-1/2 cup. Serve immediately or store in mason jar for up to 5 days.
*NOTE: To de-stem your nettle leaves, hold onto stem with tongs, and use your other hand to carefully snip the leaves using kitchen scissors.
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