I love this time of year. The woods are greening up, robins wake me before dawn, and wild foods are everywhere for the harvesting. Last week I found a clutch of fresh young oyster mushrooms sprouting on an alder; the other day I found another bunch in full fruition that was ready for picking. Fiddleheads are up, miner’s lettuce is carpeting the ground, and stinging nettles are everywhere.
The miner’s lettuce I used for this recipe is growing in a nice urban patch not far from my Seattle home. This is Claytonia perfoliata, not to be confused with the more common variety in Puget Sound, Siberian miner’s lettuce, Claytonia sibirica. A few leaves scattered on the plate lend a sharp green note, while spring peas add texture. I like to use fresh shelling peas if possible, but frozen baby peas will do in a pinch. The sauce is quick and easy if you happen to have stinging nettle pesto on hand; I always have some frozen at the ready.
Stinging Nettle Sauce
2 cubes frozen stinging nettle pesto, defrosted
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp diced shallot
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Saute shallot in butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Stir in stinging nettle pesto.
3. Lower heat and whisk in cream. Thicken to desired consistency, adding more cream if necessary.
For the final dish, ladle stinging nettle sauce and cooked peas into a shallow bowl. Plate pan-fried halibut fillet (see my friend Hank Shaw’s tutorial for pan-searing fish) over sauce and garnish with miner’s lettuce leaves. This recipe will make enough sauce for 2.
If you’ve put up quantities of stinging nettles and have some nettle pesto in the freezer, this is a fast restaurant-style meal. The pesto is also ideal for serving kids a quick and healthy pasta too.