Friday, March 5, 2010

Foraging on the Forest Floor - Stinging Nettle Pesto

So I am going to let you in on a little secret, in case you have decided to go 'Pot Hunting' (Mushroom hunting) in the Columbia River Gorge.... It's still too early for morels, regardless of the warm weather we have been having.

Needless to say, after bumbling though the bountiful blackberry briar bushes, I came back shroom-less. BUT... Yes, that is a big "But". My forager's instincts had been awakened only to be unleashed upon the forest floor. So instead of shoving shrooms in my satchel, I nimbly nabbed numerous nettles, neatly nestling them in my knapsack.

I figured since Morel Risotto was out of the question, I would at least leave with one of my favorite foraged ingredients and make a Nettle Pesto, with which I would lavishly smother my Linguine. I chose Walnuts for this because pine nuts would not be "strong" enough to stand up the the flavor of the nettles. It was the same with the cheese. When I make Pesto, I use a mixture of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, but nettles are more intense than basil, so the more pungent cheese is the choice. Grab that Pecorino Romano baby. Although I think Asiago might work just as well.....

I have dealt with handling Nettles in preparation for Ravioli di Ortica alla Pusteresi, as well as posting about Pesto Genoese, way,Way, WAY back; shortly after I started this blog. The process, by which I make pesto, is by hand, with a mezzaluna; but by all means, if you prefer the food processor then go for it. It's simply a personal preference. I like a more rustic multi-textured pesto, and this can only be achieved with a mezzaluna. A food processor will create a nice uniformly chopped pesto.

Pesto Suolo Forestale

(Forest Floor Pesto)

6 oz (160 g) Nettle tops
4 cloves Garlic (I used 5 cause 2 were very small)
Kosher Salt
2.2 oz (65 g) Walnuts
1.5 oz (45 g) Pecorino Romano
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
8 oz (235 ml) Extra Virgin Olive oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile wash the Nettles (don't touch them)

Move nettles (with gloves) to the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute.

Drain and spray with cold water to stop the cooking.

Squeeze the water out (Just like spinach)

Place about 1/2 the nettles and the garlic on a cutting board with a pinch of salt and begin chopping them with a mezzaluna.

Add 1/2 the walnuts and chop some more.

Add 1/2 the remaining nettles and 1/2 the cheese; then Chop Chop a whole lot more.

Add the remaining Walnuts and Nettles then Chop Chop Choppity Chop.

Then finally, add the last of the cheese and... yep, you guesses it... chop away.

Mash it together so it can me moved to a dish.... I always make it a square cause I use a square container.

Sprinkle with the juice of 1/2 a Lemon.

Then pour Extra Virgin Olive oil over it

and smash with a fork to work the oil into the mixture.

Tada! Pesto from the Forest Floor...

Now anoint some linguine with the Nettle-y goodness and sprinkle with a little more Pecorino Romano...


Stinging Nettle Pesto on Foodista


Patti T. said...

Are these what are called stinging nettles, I wasn't going to ask, but when you said not to touch them I just had to.

Bob said...

Ok, can you buy nettles? I don't think I have any around here that I would be comfortable eating. We don't have a lot of woods and such, but I really want to try this stuff.

Culinary Alchemist said...

Patti - Yes, these are stinging nettles, always use gloves, at least until they are blanched... ;)

Bob - I am not sure if you can find them in a grocery store, maybe a farmer's market. Not really sure.. I ordered seed when I was in San Diego, but it's just too hot down there for them to grow.

Danielle said...

I knew it!! I knew you wouldn't be making just ordinary pesto...hahaha. It looks sooo good!

Patti T. said...

Stinging nettles always sounded a little scary to me (Imagining them stinging the whole way down to the tummy, tee hee.)