Monday, March 22, 2010

Nettles: Pesto

Ugh, this was almost a month ago. Way behind. But I think there's also an appropriateness to this delayed writing, most of the pesto is still around. In frozen form.

Anyhow, nearly a month ago I went out again, paper grocery bag and gloves in hand, to harvest some more Stinging Nettles from a local park. They grow everywhere around here, and are an obnoxious weed. Still, I try to be choosy where I pick them. Too near the sides of trails? Dogs. Too far off trail? High chance of me getting tagged by either the nettles themselves or sneaky blackberries. So this day I picked a few near the main trail.

As I was working my way along a jogger stopped and asked me, "Hey, are you picking nettles?" "Why yes, yes I am." "There's a #$%&-ton of them down around that bend." "Thanks!" Sure enough that part of the park was rife with them. I've still not quite got a firm answer on the legality of picking in city parks, so I consider it my civic duty to eradicate some of this green menace from areas where say, children and the elderly might be: benches, scenic overlooks, etc.. Honestly, the park crews have to clean it out. I bet they'd be thrilled if someone else did it. Got tagged twice in the process, need to be more careful! So itchy! But sure enough, I soon had my grocery sack and was on my way home.

Washed and blanched, I ended up with about two quarts of ready-to-go nettles. But what to do with them?

Lang Cook of Fat of the Land never ceases to amaze me, and his post on Nettle Pops got my mind going. You make pesto. Then freeze it in an ice-cube tray. Voila! Little pesto pops that you can just heat up whenever you need to pesto something. Brilliant. So one quart of nettles became pesto. In a food processor:
  • 1 quart Nettles, blanched, drained and squeezed, and roughly chopped. Probably 3 quarts of dry nettles. I really should go by weight. Oh well.
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1 cup toasted Pine Nuts
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • a little lemon juice or wine vinegar to brighten things up
Blitz everything for 30 seconds or so, then start to drizzle in olive oil until it becomes the texture you want. I like mine a but chunky. A cup or so of oil should do it.

Once you've got it like you like, you can stick it in the fridge for a week or so. We chowed down on it with a simple loaf of bread, and I made a few simple pasta dishes with it.

But if you're thinking long term, you can spoon or pipe it into an ice cube tray. Each cube is enough to dress two servings of pasta pretty decently.

As a pesto it has all the right garlic, nut, Parmesan flavors, but not the 'basil'. I don't see why you couldn't put basil in it, other than it's not in season when nettles are. But I like it as it is, the nettles have a spinach thing that's mellow but nice. And very, very nutritious. And I've got a dozen Summer dinners half-done, ready in my freezer. Sweet, and worth the sting.


Trish said...

Pesto pops! Brilliant! I might thaw my block o' pesto and put it in this much more convenient form!

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