Reprinted from Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia. Copyright © 2009 Published by Ten Speed Press.
Nettles — weeds that grow throughout the United States — are like something out of a scary children’s story. Their leaves are serrated like teeth and they’re covered with spiky hairs that sting on contact. But the sting is fleeting, and the antidote is the juice of the nettles’ own leaves. Boiled briefly, nettles turn into a rich green vegetable much like spinach. You can drink the nutrient-rich cooking water like tea, just leave out the salt. Toss pesto with pasta, spread on seared fish or chicken, or use as a dip for raw vegetables.
Makes approximately 3 cups
Fill a large pot halfway full with water. Add 1/4 cup salt and bring to a boil.
Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water. Using gloves or tongs, submerge the nettles in the water and let them sit for 5 minutes. Remove the nettles and discard the water. Wearing rubber gloves, pull the leaves from the stems and discard the stems.
Put the nettles in the boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Drain and spread the nettles on a baking sheet. Let cool completely. Squeeze out as much of the water as possible and coarsely chop.
Place the nettles in the bowl of a food processor with the mint, garlic, pine nuts, and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Process until the mixture has formed a paste.
With the machine running, pour in the olive oil. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Chef Thomas Keller, author of Ad Hoc at Home, explains how to season food with salt and vinegar, and why you should temper your food.