Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sauteed Nettles with Sesame, Shiitakes and Shallots

All you have to do is cruise through last spring's recipes to see what a fan I am of nettles. Nettle and potato fritters, and nettles quiche have proudly appeared here before. The health benefits of nettles are vast, they are easily (if not more so) just as satisfying as spinach, and appear without hardly any effort early on in the season.
This is my favorite time to partake, when the shoots are tender and vibrant green. After a winter full of roasted roots, eating fresh greens is nothing short of a seasonal tonic.

Spring greens help cleanse the respiratory system, improve circulation, lighten mood, purify the blood and improve liver, kidney and gull bladder function. High in minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium and iron, spring greens also contain vital vitamins such as A, C, E and K. Nettles are some of the first wild edible greens to appear, allowing them to take up additional properties from the dormant winter soil, making them a very wise choice for diversifying the diet.

Shiitakes offer a broad range of useful benefits as well. Research shows that eating shiitake mushrooms stimulates the immune system and carries antiviral as well as antibacterial properties (good news for those of us who battle with seasonal colds). Plus, shiitakes happen to be high in the precious vitamin D, which we can all desperately use more of.
Lentinan, a compound present in shiitakes, has been used as an intravenous anticancer treatment in some countries due to its antitumor properties. And they are divine sauteed in butter.

Shallots, like onions, contain a host of special properties too: vitamins A and B6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and folate.
Bottom line: this dish is a nutritional powerhouse. If you have access to a stream bank or undisturbed, damp, semi-forrested area, most likely you can find stinging nettle. Grab some gloves and garden snips and get into it.

Sauteed Nettles with Sesame, Shiitakes and Shallots:
*3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
*about 7 medium shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, dried and sliced
*2 medium shallots
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*about 4 cups loosely packed freshly harvested nettle shoots, rinsed
*1/2 cup rich chicken broth
*1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
*1-2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shiitakes.

Allow space in between mushrooms to allow to brown. Turn occasionally until golden and tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small dish. Set aside.

Place remaining butter in pan. Add shallots. Reduce heat to medium low. Brown shallots before adding the garlic. Saute until aromatic and tender.
Place nettles directly into pan and pour in the broth. Increase heat to medium. Stir, allowing nettles to wilt completely, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Return shiitakes to pan. Drizzle all contents with the sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Gently toss. Serve warm.

Turn it into a Meal:
Serve nettles with fresh poached eggs for breakfast, or alongside grassfed steak, pastured pork or lamb for a lovely evening meal.

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