Ok, so I am not under the delusion that after reading this post y’all are going to run out and start foraging, but a girl can dream, right? Haha!
Honestly, I have always been a fan of eating seasonally and locally wherever and whenever possible. Yes, finding amazing farms locally is a beautiful thing, but I have been inspired to take a step further thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s little visit to Noma in Copenhagen. You can actually watch the episode Parts Unknown on Netflix in which Anthony (the most fabulously wry host and chef to listen to, I promise) meets and discusses the foraging brilliance of René Redzepi. Ok, I sound like I am geeking out on you, but trust me…if you watch this episode, you may find yourself slapping on some rain boots and grabbing some clippers, too!
Since this rainy season had brought some actual rain to our semi-arid California coast, our Spring has been bringing up so many tasty treats. So, Sam and I decided to go out foraging for what our native plants had to offer by way of food. Believe it or not, but this awesome creek is just a stones throw from Sam’s house. Just a tad idyllic!
Mint was in abundance, as was gorgeous mustard greens. It looked like we were going to have to wait on watercress for now, but we found a wonderful treat growing under the bridge. Haha, that sounds like the beginning of a story. Well, if you look closely, you will notice my gloved hands. This isn’t me protecting some dainty manicure, peeps!
What I am harvesting is stinging nettle. Yep, this lovely green is very much an edible! Can you believe it?? Actually, ever since seeing another Scandinavian chef whip up some stinging nettle soup to accompany some grass fed steak tartare, I have been jonesing to get creative in the kitchen with this unusual herb. In fact, this little delicacy can be found on the dinner table in MANY different countries…so I guess it’s not as exotic as it seems.
With our baskets full, it was time to play with our foraged goodies in the kitchen!
Stinging Nettle Spaetzle
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup stinging nettle, boiled & pureed
1 cup milk
For the sauce:
4 tbls butter, melted
zest of one lemon
The first and most important step is to “de-sting” your nettle. This step is super easy because it is really just the tiny hairs on the nettle that cause all the problems. So, put your gloves back on while you put a pot to boiling.After you let the nettles boil in water for a few minutes, take them out and give them a whirl in a food processor. The color is sooooo gorgeous!!This recipe is such a cinch, and the perfect little side dish to so many entrees. It is really versatile. If you are not acquainted with spaetzle, I usually tell people that it is the German cousin to pasta. Basically, if pasta and a dumpling got married, they would have tons of little baby spaetzle. Ok, enough geeking out..on with the recipe!First step is to put a pot of salted water to boil on the stovetop. Now, in a medium sized bowl, make a “well” in the flour and fill it with your eggs.Add in the milk and the salt.Begin mixing things together and add in the one cup of stinging nettle puree. Do not forget to add some fresh cracked pepper for flavor!When everything is incorporated in, you will have a beautifully green and sticky dough.If you have a metal colander, congrats because that is the best tool for creating spaetzle. Since the only one I had handy was plastic, I grabbed the pasta insert from a pasta pot instead. Basically, you just need something that is metal with tons of holes.Using a rubber spatula, give your dough a stir and help it push through the holes into the boiling water.Once the spaetzle floats up to the top, it is done. Grab a skimmer and remove it before adding more spaetzle to the pot. The natural shape of the spaetzle is perfect for sauce!To create a sauce, I went super basic. I did not want to complicate or mask the flavor of the stinging nettle, so I went with butter. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and pour it over the spaetzle. Add the zest of one lemon and some more freshly cracked pepper. Again, uncomplicated but very fresh and Spring-like.
It almost feels like I am ready for a second St. Patrick’s Day! Just look at all of that gorgeous chlorophyll!
This side is perfect with chicken or fish, but absolutely resplendent with beef. Even if you do not adventure out and forage some stinging nettle, you should totally try making the spaetzle. Just sub in a different leafy green or herb. It is just to much fun to make and to eat!!