Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spring Nettle and Leek Soup

A fellow food-loving friend recently sent me a page from Ode magazine with an article on wild foods. This being a topic dear to my heart, I was happy to read words of encouragement for foraged fare, though disappointed when the author limited the world of wild foods to little more than "extra seasoning" on one's plate, claiming what the wild offers in quality, it lacks in quantity. Ahem.
Here I must tell tale of a dinner with friends Friday evening which included a spring nettle soup bountiful enough to feed five hungry adults, one hungry toddler, and enough leftovers to bring us into the beginning of the week.
The paper bag which I filled with fresh nettle to make the soup was a mere fraction of what I could have harvested, had I wanted to also then bathe in creamy nettle soup post dinner party. And her mention of finding the random morel mushroom lacked the stories of seasoned morel hunters. I have known individuals who would gather up to seventy pounds in one season, taking the location of such harvests with them to the grave.
Although wild food does nourish an under appreciated aspect of the palate by "seasoning" our plates with the less familiar, certain harvests can easily feed a hungry crowd while connecting us with something heady and grand.
The world of wild things should never be underestimated.

Spring Nettle and Leek Soup:
*aprox 14 cups (or 1 paper grocery bag 3/4 filled) fresh young nettle shoots
*5 tablespoons quality unsalted butter
*2 large leeks, rinsed well, chopped (white and light green portions only)
*5 garlic cloves, minced
*2 celery stalks, chopped
*6 cups quality chicken broth
*sea salt
*black pepper
*1 cup quality cream (optional but recommended)
*plain whole yogurt for garnish

Prepare a large bowl filled with ice water. Set aside.
Bring a large soup pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Place fresh nettles in boiling water and stir gently. Blanch for 2 minutes. Remove nettles with a slotted spoon or tongs and plunge into ice water.
Discard blanch water and return empty pot to stovetop reducing heat to medium. Melt butter in pot. Stir in the leeks, garlic and celery. Season with sea salt and pepper. Saute until tender, about 4 minutes.
Drain ice water from nettles and squeeze out any excess water. Chop nettles and place in pot. Saute briefly. Add chicken broth. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.
Blend contents of pot with an immersion blender or place in food processor fitted with a blade and puree in batches until very smooth. Return pureed nettle mixture to soup pot and adjust seasonings. Stir in cream and rewarm over medium-low heat.
Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt and an additional sprinkle of course sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1 comment:

  1. That soup rocked my world. Straight up. I wish I could read the Ode article you are referring to. I wonder if the author is someone familiar or not...Regardless, tis the time of year to be munching on some wild greens and salads, mushrooms, ramps, turkey (if we're lucky), fish. Mother nature provides. I am trying to introduce branch lettuce into the spring here in hopes that it will grace salads in years to come. Might not work, but worth a try? Wood nettles are peeking their way out of dormancy in the woods here. Fill up as many Ingles bags as you want when you come out May 4. I'll provide the Ingles bags! Well, off to the woods!