Category Archives: weeds

Clay Pot Bulgogi with Wild Greens

IMG_4820The other day I scouted some of my early morel spots to see if there might be anything starting to pop, given the ridiculously mild winter we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest. But no, nada. Seems like the fruiting schedule of morels in my area doesn’t vary much more than a week no matter how much snow falls in the mountains, although pickers down in Oregon have been talking about morels coming up two weeks earlier than usual in some of their patches.

Nevertheless, I came away with something nearly as good for my effort: wild watercress. Watercress is one of the first spring greens of the season, and depending where you live, it often has a second act in the fall. No doubt there are patches in Northern California that produce much of winter. As I plucked the tender leafy shoots, I already knew what I’d be making.

I mostly use my Korean clay pot for Soondubu, but after ordering a dish simply called “Beef Stew” at a local lunch joint recently I realized it was time to branch out. Unlike a typical American beef stew that requires hours of slow cooking, the Korean version can be whipped together in minutes if you marinate the meat in advance. And the presentation in the clay pot earns extra points. Like those miniature cast iron skillets you see in restaurants that make such a cool presentation of clams or mussels, clay pots are used for both cooking and serving.

With a little prepping, this bulgogi stew is easy. It’s essential, however, to marinate the beef for at least an hour beforehand (overnight is even better). I’ve used various marinade recipes for bulgogi and kalbi ribs over the years, including Bittman’s simple version. More traditional recipes call for an Asian pear to help sweeten and tenderize the meat, as in this recipe, although other recipes omit the fruit. As it happens, my local butcher sells thin-sliced beef trimmings already marinated.

A typical clay pot bulgogi will have some sort of leafy green vegetable such as spinach stirred in at the end; this one owes its vibrant color to the wild and very nutritious watercress that’s leafing out across much of the country right now.

1/2 pound marinated bulgogi, preferably thin-sliced ribeye (see marinade recipes above)
1/2 small yellow onion, cut into thin slices (add to marinating meat if desired)
1 cup water
1 cup beef stock or dashi
1 handful cellophane sweet potato noodles, about 5 oz
1 green onion, sliced
1 handful fresh wild greens such as watercress, bittercress, dandelions, lambs-quarters
Other optional ingredients: shiitake or enoki mushrooms, sliced carrots, egg

1. Add cellophane noodles to a bowl of warm water and set aside for 20 minutes.

2. Heat clay pot (or conventional pot) over high heat, then add beef and onions and stir-fry a couple minutes until the meat is lightly browned.

3. Add water and stock. If using a clay pot, leave enough room for noodles.

4. Once boiling, stir in pre-softened noodles and cook until tender.

5. When noodles are ready, stir in wild greens and green onion and remove from heat.

Serves 2 with rice.

Wild Greens Workshop

heyday_farm2It’s that time again for those of us on the West Coast. The woods and meadows are waking up. Wild greens—tasty, nutritious, free—decorate the woods and forest fringes.

To ring in the spring harvest, I’ll be teaching a foraging and cooking workshop at Heyday Farm on Bainbridge Island on March 27, with a focus on wild spring greens, especially stinging nettles. As I’ve said here before, nettles are the backbone of my spring foraging. I use nettles in soups, pastas, and sauces, and I put up large quantities of nettle pesto to have on hand year-round.

At Heyday, we’ll spend the morning foraging in the woods around the farm, learning about and harvesting what’s in season. Back at the historic Heyday Farm kitchen and farmhouse, we’ll learn several ways to pair and prepare our catch. The class will include a satisfying lunch. Cost is $110. Please sign up through Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation, or by calling (206) 842-2306.

Wild Bibimbap

I’ve been on a Korean comfort food kick of late, and comfort food doesn’t get much more Cadillac-like than a big steaming bowl of bibimbap.

The translation is “mixed rice”—it’s basically rice covered with dollops of prepared dishes, or namul, which are then mixed together at table. The rice is heaped into a large bowl (all the better if it’s a heated stone bowl, or dolsot, unlike the cheap plastic bowl pictured), and then a variety of meats and vegetables are arranged in a colorful and artfully balanced manner over the rice. The piece de resistance is a fried egg on top. A vinegared gochujang sauce ties it all together.

Here’s the thing: bibimbap is traditionally served with at least one wild ingredient, gosari, also known as bracken fern (and sometimes called fernbrake on imported packages of dried bracken). This time of year the young fern shoots can be eaten fresh. Click here for instructions on foraging and preparing bracken (plus a health advisory). For bibimbap I like to cut the parboiled bracken into 3-inch sections and stir-fry with a little sesame oil, garlic, soy, and Chinese cooking wine.

I added two other wild ingredients to my bibimbap: stinging nettles and oyster mushrooms. The nettles are a substitute for the traditional spinach, the oysters for shiitake. To prepare the nettles, I harvested several cups of tender young nettle tops and boiled them for a minute to neutralize the sting, then wrung out the water with my hands before giving the nettles a quick rough chop. Next, I stir-fried them in a little peanut oil with minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and soy sauce. The oyster mushrooms got cut into strips and stir-fried the same way until slightly browned on the edges.

Bibimbap is simple fare, but it requires alacrity in the kitchen—and with so many different ingredients, my advice is to make this dish for four or more people. Do all the prep work first (i.e., the chopping), then stir-fry each of the namul toppings in quick succession. Mound onto a large serving plate and keep covered. Other common toppings include: julienned and stir-fried zucchini; julienned carrots, which can be served raw or quickly stir-fried; bean sprouts, which should be boiled for a couple minutes until tender and then drained and tossed with a splash of sesame oil; and thinly sliced steak, bulgogi, marinated beforehand with a little sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, and sugar before stir-frying.

Once all this busy work is complete, use your innate artistic skills to make an eye-catching presentation, kick back in a cozy place with friends and some cold beers, and dig in.

 

The Urban Naturalist

I’ll be contributing articles on occasion to the Seattle P.I.‘s Urban Naturalist blog, helmed by Waverly Fitzgerald. Here’s my first post, on that ornery yet useful weed, the stinging nettle. The post was actually inspired by the children’s book, Wake Up, It’s Spring!, which my daughter Ruby broke out of retirement this week.

Pimentón Clams and Pig Face

This post is a shout-out to my peeps in the shellfish dept. One of the benefits of helming FOTL is the opportunity to share my experiences with others keen to forage and cook wild foods—a recipe for good times in the outdoors, with fun people.

My shellfish classes, in particular, have escalated (perhaps as word has gotten out and each subsequent class is intent on besting the previous one) into veritable bacchanals. There’s something about working up a sweat on the tide flats and then whumping together a feast over campstoves that encourages plenitude: folks show up with champagne, beer, cheese, salumi, cookies, and other treats. We’ve had basement apple wine, home-cured sausage, and empanadas. There’s almost always a fillet or two of smoked salmon and recently someone brought bento boxes packed full of potstickers, barbecued pork, and candied almonds.

On the trail to the tidelands – (c) Susan Choi

The blueprint is simple. Everyone meets at the beach, where we make introductions and go over some key points of identification, biology, habitat, foraging technique, regulations, and precautions. Then we hit the shellfish beds to gather our limits of clams and oysters. The rest of the day is spent hanging out back at the picnic shelter, cooking our catch.

My co-leader, John Adams, manages Taylor Shellfish‘s Dosewallips facility. As a third-generation shellfish farmer, he also has his own family business, Sound Fresh Clams & Oysters, where he’s been making a name all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond for his Skookum Point oysters. Recently a writer from Bon Appetit dropped by to sample John’s stuff.

An oyster bed for bivalve dreams – (c) Susan Choi

John and I are fortunate to have Jeff Ozimek, outdoor programs coordinator at Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec, in our corner. Jeff is the mastermind behind all this fun, and Seattle Parks & Rec (if they ever have a budget windfall) would be smart to look across the pond to see what Jeff is doing to get his community outside interacting with the natural world.

For my part, after the clams have been dug and the oysters picked, I get to relax a little bit. Delegation carries the day as the students do the prepping and cooking. Usually there are a few who lead the charge. This past weekend Team France made Steamed Clams with Wine and Herbs while Team China filled a wok with Spicy Black Bean Clams. I watched, offering the occasional advice and encouragement. We all slurped oysters until we could eat no more.

We usually get a few “repeat offenders” at each class. This time around we were pleased to have back photographer Susan Choi, who graciously provided most of the photos for this post.

Even the rain couldn’t put a damper on the proceedings. John built a fire, the canopies went up, and we continued the feast. Finally, well past dark, the park security detail had to shoo us out. Everyone went home with plenty of shellfish.

Picking the right oyster: Does it have a deep pocket? – (c) Susan Choi
***

Pimentón Clams and Pig Face looks back to my new year’s resolution to cook more improvisationally. It’s a variation on Pasta alle Vongole, and a keeper. The pig face of the title, smoked jowl, is a lot like bacon, but try to find the jowl if you can because its mix of succulence and crispiness can’t be beat. Combined with the clams, smoked paprika, sweet red pepper, and some white wine, the resulting sauce makes for a distinctively Iberian way to dress up pasta.

I’ve made steamed clam dishes that hail from all over the world. Italian clams and Thai clamsMexican clams and Japanese clams. This riff on Spanish clams turned out so good that I expect the recipe below to take its place in the inner circle of my go-to clam dishes.

Linguini with Clams, Pimentón & Smoked Pig Jowl

10 oz linguini
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 lb smoked pig jowl, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp semisweet (or sweet) smoked paprika
salt, to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 dozen manila clams
2 handfuls wild watercress, dandelion greens, or arugula, torn
parsley, chopped for garnish

1. In a large, deep-sided saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low and slowly cook diced jowl, rendering fat until the meat is crispy, about 30 minutes of mostly untended cooking with occasional stirring.

2. While the jowl is rendering, bring a pot of water to boil and add linguini. Cook until not quite al dente, drain, and set aside.

3. When diced jowl is crispy, raise heat to medium, add onions, and cook in pork fat for a minute before adding garlic and red pepper. Cook together for another 2 minutes. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and paprika. Salt to taste.

3. Raise heat to high, de-glaze with white wine, and allow to bubble for 30 seconds, stirring, before adding clams and covering.

4. When clams begin to open, mix in greens and linguini. Continue to stir, coating pasta and reducing liquid if necessary. Serve and garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 2.

Drinking wine, working the wok – (c) Susan Choi

Backyard Udon Stir-fry

Weeded the garden yesterday. Then cooked up the weeds for lunch.

February and March are strange months in the Pacific Northwest. It’s often the best skiing of the year in the mountains, but those same storms that dump powder at elevation (or Cascade concrete, as the case may be) are nourishing the first flush of spring greens down in the valley.

Spring?


Indeed. This is the time to start looking for fresh wild greens on the West Coast, especially the highly nutritious weeds—when they’ve just emerged. Right now California is kicking out commercial quantities of stinging nettles, watercress, and—soon—fiddleheads, and my own stomping grounds to the north around Puget Sound are not far behind. In fact, this is the time I usually start filling my larder with the first (and best) stinging nettles of the year, which present an obvious green target against the otherwise drab colors of a forest floor still trying to shake off winter. Dandelions are at their best now, too, before budding; watercress is on the rebound; and bittercress is another favorite.

If you’re hesitant to include backyard weeds in your menu, try this simple recipe, which is sort of like disguising a dog pill in a little ball of hamburger. Who doesn’t love a big bowl of stir-fried noodles with bright toppings? Wild greens add a distinctive and healthy bite to a dish already brimming with flavors. For the dish pictured, I used dandelion greens and watercress.

A colorful, heaping bowl of noodles with a variety of good toppings is so appealing to me, and it can be even easier to put something interesting together if you have a few ingredients ready to go, for instance pickled fiddleheads or a Tupperware full of five-spice beef short ribs (I make the ribs on Sunday and put them in the fridge for just such a weekday purpose). A fried or poached egg is another easy topping.

Fresh udon can be purchased at many Asian markets, and the pre-packaged stuff (dried or frozen) is available at many conventional grocery stores. Cook the udon according to the instructions and make sure to rinse with cold water and pat dry before stir-frying.

You can vary the flavors in any number of ways if your Asian cupboard is well stocked with a variety of chili pastes, bean pastes, Sichuan peppercorns, black vinegar, rice vinegar, aji-mirin, fish sauce, Sriracha sauce, miso, light and dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, pickled chiles, sambal olek, and so on. Below is the simplest form: just a little soy and aji-mirin (sweet rice wine).

1 package fresh udon
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced (reserve sliced tops for garnish)
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced julienne
2 cups wild greens, torn (or bok choy, cabbage, etc.)
aji-mirin
soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)

1. Boil udon according to directions. Drain, rinse, pat dry, and set aside.

2. In a wok or large pan, sauté green onions, garlic, and ginger for a minute in peanut oil over medium heat. Add carrot and cook together another minute. Add greens and stir-fry until wilted, 30 seconds or so.

3. Stir in cooked noodles, add a splash of aji-mirin (less than a quarter cup) and a splash of soy sauce, to taste. Mix well, add a little sesame oil, and serve. Top with a garnish of sliced green onions, cilantro, crispy fried shallots, a fried egg, or a five-spiced short rib—or all of the above.

Backyard Spaetzle

Seems you can’t swing a dead cat in Seattle without hitting a restaurant serving spaetzle. This has been a developing trend over the last few years—and I’m all for it. Whether you call it pasta, dumplings, spaetzle, or any number of other names from around the globe, the combination of flour with water, egg, or milk is pure comfort. As a delivery vehicle for other good flavors—wild mushrooms, herbs, or even weeds—rustic pastas like spaetzle are unparalleled.

I’m a fanatic for homemade Italian pastas, though sometimes you don’t have the time or energy to devote to a well-executed ravioli, or even tagliolini. In our family we’ve been making a simple dish we call Polish Dumplings for years to satisfy the flour-and-egg yen. It’s quick, easy, and delicious in a hearty chicken or vegetable soup. This same recipe can be repurposed without any extra effort to make something just that much more delicate and special. Spaetzle (also spelled spätzle) is really just a pile of tiny dumplings. There’s something about the mouth feel that’s addictive. Whereas dumplings are chunky and filling, spaetzle is light and tender.

Just about any occasion can call for spaetzle, even an afternoon of weeding in the yard. I pulled a couple of my favorites for the table: bittercress and dandelion greens. Back in the disaster zone that is our kitchen, I couldn’t find our cheap spaetzle maker so I resorted to a colander, and while you’ll see many recipes that suggest this method as an alternative, it’s really not the way you want to go. Buy an inexpensive spaetzle maker; you’ll make more spaetzle.

I used half the dough to make spaetzle and the rest for basic dumplings.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped weeds or herbs

1. Put a pot of water on the boil. Whisk together eggs and milk in a small bowl.

2. Measure flour and salt into a large bowl, then add egg-milk mixture and chopped weeds and stir together with a fork until ingredients are mixed but not overly so. The dough should be sticky.

3. Salt boiling water generously. Press dough through spaetzle maker (or a colander, if you must) directly into boiling water.

For larger dumplings like these steaming on a plate (above), just pull gobs of dough off a fork and allow to fall directly into the pot. Both spaetzle and dumplings are ready when floating on the surface. It doesn’t take long.

For my daughter’s portion, I melted a pat of butter on top and grated some fresh parmesan cheese. Ruby liked it just like that, but you could serve it as a side dish or top with a meat or wild mushroom ragu. Spaetzle is a self-starter and plays well with others.

Bay Area Bounty

West Marin at the end of March is a trip into Eden. The headlands have greened up from winter rains (admittedly spotty this year), the rivers run high, and the woods and meadows overflow with a riot of tangled undergrowth, much of it edible.

More than 20 years ago, when I lived briefly in Berkeley and San Francisco, I heard stories about Bolinas. Tucked away on a thumb of land south of Pt. Reyes and between the Pacific Ocean and Bolinas Lagoon, the community shunned conventional ways. The funny-looking locals farmed funny-looking crops in funny ways. Heck, maybe they even foraged (gasp!). This led to busloads of tourists wanting pictures of the native wildlife. Whenever the county erected a sign tipping off lookey-loos to their whereabouts, the locals tore it down. There’s still no sign today, but the tenets of organic farming that began largely in this valley are now practiced all over the country; local artisan food makers are celebrated across the land for their award-winning breads, brews, cheeses, meats, and preserves; and foraging is just another common sense way to gather fresh, healthy food.

This past weekend, thanks to organizer Marin Organic, I joined with a few dozen food and outdoor lovers from all over the Bay to wander among the stunning beauty and bounty of Bolinas. [Listen to a radio story about the event here.] Kevin Feinstein, co-author of The Bay Area Forager, was on hand to share his local wisdom, and we were fortunate to have a few practicing chefs (plus eager students) to help with the afternoon feast. The weather looked ominous. Driving over Mount Tam, my rental car shook violently in the wind. Rain blowing in off the Pacific slashed sideways at my windshield. But by the time we poked our heads out from under the eaves of the Gospel Flat Farm stand, the rain had subsided and the sun was working hard to shoehorn clouds out the way.

Andrea Blum Photo

We all walked across the street to the Star Route Farms property that would be our primary hunting ground. Normally I wouldn’t be enthusiastic about picking wild foods next to a farm, but Star Route has been organic for nearly four decades, and it shows. The rows between crops are loaded with weeds—healthy, nutritious, delicious weeds—weeds that get harvested right along with the domestic vegetables. [See top photo.] We picked nasturtium flowers, wild radish seed pods, mallow, cat’s ear, and other weeds before climbing up into the wet jungle that rises above the farm, protecting its watershed with a forest of native trees and a host of native and non-native edible plants.

Robust patches of miner’s lettuce forced us to choose our steps carefully lest we trample a good food source. The stinging nettles were tall, nearly too tall for harvest, so we snipped the tops of the youngest, tenderest plants. Chickweed flourished among the miner’s lettuce. Huge thickets of thimbleberry, already budding out, towered above us on the hillside, and red elderberry in flower hung overhead. It was an orgy of wild foods. Kevin pulled a few thistles from the damp soil and demonstrated how to peel the lower stalk and boil the root (note to self: I really need to do a dedicated thistle post one of these days).

Andrea Blum Photo

Back at Gospel Flat we turned our attention to processing and cooking our catch. Everyone happily pitched in. The wine flowed. Kevin prepared a taste test of thistles, both raw and cooked, while the rest of us worked on the three main dishes of the day: oysters, soup, and salad. An appetizer of pan-fried oysters donated by Tomales Bay Oyster Company, dressed with a homemade aioli (thanks Kerry!) on Brick Maiden Bakery baguette, was devoured on the spot. Next came an enormous salad of miner’s lettuce, chickweed, cat’s ear, mallow, nasturtiums, wild onion, wild mustard flowers, and wild radish seed pods that filled an entire wash basin. Toasted walnuts, crumbled blue cheese from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette added finishing touches to the salad.

Andrea Blum Photo

Meanwhile several volunteers chopped onions and garlic, peeled potatoes, and tended three kettles of Stinging Nettle Soup cooking on a propane stove on the back porch. Despite the early rain showers, the day was just getting better with each passing hour. We added a hearty pour of Straus Family cream to the soup and had at it.

Nothing beats tromping around in the woods in search of strange and often maligned plants and then transforming them into culinary marvels amidst a hubbub of wine and cheerful conversation. Coming together to nourish our minds and bodies was the order of the day. These are the basic underlying principles of community.

Photo Andrea Blum

Foraging is often seen as a survival skill, a way for the individual to go it alone in a harsh environment and still prosper. Though I value my alone time for art, contemplation, spiritual renewal, or any number of other things—and have indulged this solitary life for months at a time in the wilderness—at the end of the day I would never renounce my need or desire to be among other people, to share in ideas and joys, to participate in the human drama. For me, foraging is not a path to isolation—it’s a way to connect.

I’ve been supremely disappointed in our U.S. Supreme Court in recent years as it seems to thumb its judicial nose at the very concept of community in America, as if liberty can only be defined as the individual giving the finger to everyone else. Clearly, since our institutions are failing us, it’s up to us, the people, to create community—and to hold onto it dearly.

Nettle Green Curry

This was more or less an experiment. I wanted to see how the flavor of stinging nettles might accompany a traditional Thai green curry. I modified a typical recipe for green curry paste to my own liking and then added boiled chopped nettles a little at a time to the food processor until I could taste a change in the overall profile. At that point I added a little more nettle and called it good.

The result was a green curry with an earthier, woodsier flavor. You can adjust this earthiness to your own palate by playing with the proportions of nettles, basil, and cilantro. The paste is incredibly easy to make, and it tastes so much fresher, brighter, and greener than a store-bought paste. All you need is a food processor or blender (or a mortar and pestle if you have the time and stamina).

Nettle Green Curry Paste

1 cup stinging nettles, boiled, drained & chopped
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 kaffir lime leaf, chopped
1 shallot, peeled
4 large cloves garlic
1 large thumb ginger, peeled and sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp shrimp paste (or salt)
2 – 3 tbsp lime juice
3 – 4 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp coconut milk

Add more coconut milk to the paste in the food processor if it’s too dry. For the finished curry I used a small saucepan to cook a few heaping spoonfuls of the paste in a tablespoon of peanut oil for a minute to unleash the flavors, then slowly stirred in less than a cup of coconut milk until desired consistency and added a few more splashes of fish sauce and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Meanwhile I broiled a fillet of local sablefish for 10 minutes, which got plated on a bed of rice. The curry was deliberately thick so that it could be dolloped on the broiled fish with a garnish of thinly sliced red bell pepper, green onion, and cilantro on top. Crushed peanuts completed the dish. You can adjust the texture, spiciness, and sweetness of the curry to whatever you’re cooking. The paste should keep for a week in the refrigerator, or longer if frozen.

Stinging Nettle Gnudi with Sage Butter & White Truffles

Stinging nettles are emerging right on schedule in Puget Sound. I’ve written reams in the past about my weed crush on nettles, so click on the link above if you want to learn more about their natural history and culinary applications.

Figuring the dastardly yet oh-so-tasty greens were bound to be up by now, I went for a walk this past weekend in a Seattle green space with my son to check on signs of life. Spring premonitions were everywhere: Indian plum leafing out, towhees trilling their cat-like songs, street corner sandwich boards advertising little league tryouts. Sure enough, stinging nettles—always one of the first splashes of chlorophyl on an otherwise drab, mid-winter floor—peeked out from the leaf litter like groundhogs nosing out of burrows on shadow patrol, some of them just barely tall enough for harvest.

Riley demonstrated one of his favorite skills learned at Wilderness Camp: he carefully picked a nettle leaf with his bare hand by pinching its hairless top and folded it over several times into a little package which he then popped into his mouth and ate. Look Dad, no sting! We went to a regular spot and harvested a grocery bag worth of tender young nettle tops.

This time Riley wasn’t so lucky. He got stung on his calf, his youthful skin immediately turning red with little raised welts. Nearby he found a frond of licorice fern with visible spores underneath and rubbed it vigorously on the affected area. This noted folk remedy has never worked for me personally, but Riley insisted that the fern did the trick. I took a look and was surprised to see that the redness and welts were really gone. Next time we might harvest that licorice fern for food, too.

Nettle Gnocchi has been a go-to recipe in recent years, but until the other day I had never made…

Nettle Gnudi

Yep, naked—as in naked ravioli. Gnudi are basically ravioli fillings without their pasta clothing. You mix a bit of flour into the cheese filling and shape it into little balls or pillows. You can serve them boiled, but I like adding one more step and pan-frying the gnudi so that the rich, creamy inside is contrasted by the fried exterior. Finely chopped nettles (or spinach or herbs) add an extra dimension of flavor. It’s up to you how much herbage to add. I didn’t want my gnudi to be overpowered by the nettles, so I limited mine to a scant, loose cup; you could double that amount and end up with much greener, woodsier gnudi.

2 cups ricotta
3/4 cup grated parmesan
2 eggs
1 cup boiled and chopped nettles
1/2 cup flour, plus more for rolling
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper
olive oil
butter
fresh sage, chopped

1. Blanche stinging nettles in boiling water for a minute. Drain, shock with cold water, and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Chop finely to fill a loose cup.

2. Drain ricotta and stir into large bowl with parmesan, eggs, chopped nettles, a dash of nutmeg, and seasoning. Slowly add flour. Mixture should be damp and tacky without sticking to hands. If a half cup of flour doesn’t do the trick, keep adding a little more at a time until you can form a wet ball in your hand without it adhering.

3. Sprinkle work surface generously with flour. Take a snowball-sized handful of cheese mixture and roll in flour until thoroughly coated. Roll out into a snake with a half-inch to inch diameter depending on preference. Cut into pillows. Dredge the cut ends in flour and shape each pillow as desired. Set aside on floured plate.

4. Boil gnudi in batches in salted water. They’re done when they float to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to remove from boiling water to a clean plate. Place cooked gnudi on wax paper on a cookie sheet. I like to boil a batch after each snowball’s worth of filling is shaped. While that batch is boiling (it only takes a couple minutes), I move the previous boiled batch from plate to wax paper. Then I continue with another handful.

5. Pan fry gnudi in olive oil and butter with chopped sage leaves until nicely browned. Leftover boiled gnudi can be refrigerated.

Nettle Gnudi with Lamb Ragu, Carrot Puree & Sage Butter Crumbs


For a more involved dish I made a lamb shoulder ragu by browning diced lamb shoulder in olive oil with shallot, deglazing with a splash of white wine, and stirring in a teaspoon of tomato paste. This got served over the pan-fried gnudi along with a sauce of pureed stewed carrots and a sprinkling of sage butter crumbs.

Gnudi are easier to make than potato gnocchi, and the melt-in-your-mouth inside is a truly wonderful thing. Another reason to get yer weed on.