Greetings all, happy Memorial Day!
It has been more than a month since I last posted on the blog, mostly because I have been playing around in my new kitchen focused on the dishes I planned to share which celebrate spring ingredients. However, if I waited much longer spring would be over and I would be starting all over again with dishes featuring early summer ingredients.
So I thought it best to get out a quick post, featuring a versatile and easy-to-assemble dish to get us started, to be followed by a much longer post featuring many spring ingredients which will include something for everyone’s taste. Please stay tuned.
In this post we are going to make a frittata, that versatile egg dish prepared as a flat instead of folded omelet. The main ingredient is that traditional foraged spring green, the nettle or stinging nettle.
Nettles are readily available in spring and summer. The plant is native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, and is found throughout the continental United States.
They are a tasty, herbaceous green, not only flavorful, but good for you. Nettles are high in iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, vitamins A and C, and are an adequate source of protein. The word “nettle” describes one flowering plant species from the many of the Urtica genus, which comes from the Latin word uro, meaning, “I burn.”
And burn they do! The thin fibers on the main stalks and leaf stems can, when you come in contact with them, inject you with a concentration of formic acid along with histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin. The sting and lasting effect has been described as similar to that of fire ant bites. However the remedy is simple: wear gloves when foraging and preparing, and a quick blanch or simply cooking the greens renders the sting harmless. Truth be told, the first time I worked with nettles I was “stung,” however, I came out on the other side just fine and able to share their story. Each spring I enjoy exploring ways in which I can incorporate them into a dish or two.
If you choose to explore cooking with nettles yourself you will find there are many approaches. Soup is a favorite, as well as pesto, risotto, and pasta dishes, but let’s get back to that frittata.
1 bunch of nettles, leaves removed from the stalks and stems removed from the leaves (remember, use gloves for this step)
Mix of fresh herbs, approximately 1 cup (in this recipe I used mint and shisho leaves, along with fennel fronds all from our herb garden), there are many options
1 large onion, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
5 large eggs
¼ cup Half & Half
1 cup grated cheese (in this recipe I combined Grana Padano and Piacentinu) there are many other options).
- comparable to Parmigiano-Reggiano although it has a shorter aging time
- is produced from cows milk in northern Italy’s Po River valley
- was first introduced in the 12th century by Cistercian monks
- has a nutty-savory, slightly sweet taste and a less crumbly texture than Parmigiano-Reggiano
- is a rare Sicilian cheese
- made from sheep’s milk
- contains whole black peppercorns and saffron that gives it the yellow color (It is one of those cheeses I suggest you try at least once, so let me know if there is an interest and I will be happy to tell you where you can find it.)
Salt & pepper
Prep the nettles.
Slice the onions and mince the garlic and the herbs.
Whisk the Half & Half into the eggs.
Grate the cheese.
Using a 10- to 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan or nonstick pan, warm the oil over medium-high heat.
Sauté the onions until wilted and beginning to caramelize. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the minced garlic, mixing to combine with the onions.
Add the nettle leaves and minced herbs, mixing to combine and soften by the heat of the onions. Remove the pan from the stove, allowing it to cool slightly and then mix the sauté into the egg custard while folding in the grated cheese.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Wipe out the pan and re-heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot but not smoking, place a small drop of the egg mix in the sauté pan and if it sets up right away the pan is ready. Working quickly, pour the egg mixture across the surface of the pan, running a spatula around the outside and gently shaking the pan so the egg mixture spreads and heats evenly, setting the bottom of the frittata.
Sprinkle some breadcrumbs, and some extra black pepper over the top.
Once the frittata is set in the pan and moves easily when the pan is shaken, place it in the preheated oven to complete the overall cooking, for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Finally, place the frittata under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes more to lightly brown the top.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow the frittata to cool in the pan for a few minutes before sliding it onto a platter to serve warm or at room temperature.
Well, that launches us into cooking with spring ingredients. I do hope you try nettles at least once as there are a lot of options to choose from. Perhaps you might even consider foraging for your own. Enjoy!
Eat well. Be well.
Food is one way of staying connected to the people who surround us. It is a great way to forge connections with and between people.