A few weeks ago, I made an enormous batch of nettle pesto, using probably two and a half pounds of fresh nettles. My freezer is well stocked with containers of green deliciousness. I spread some of the pesto on some broiled salmon for Passover this year, and await many future uses.
But when I was done cooking the nettles to use in the pesto, running so many batches of leaves through the same pot of boiling water, I noticed the water was a deep green-yellow-brown color from the plants. I tasted it and immediately decided to put it in the freezer to save, it was so good. A concentrated version of the earthy, green springy flavor of nettles.
For Passover, to go along with my salmon, I hauled out a few quarts worth of the nettle broth to make a soup. I combined it with a simple vegetable stock — carrots, onions, leek greens, mushroom pieces, salt, pepper, and a parmesan rind. Together, the veggie stock and the nettle stock had a complex and well balanced flavor.
I added chopped carrots and lacinato kale to the soup, and made some Passover-friendly dumplings that, unlike matzah balls, were gluten free. Building off a delicious recipe for fennel dumplings in Deborah Madison’s great cookbook Local Flavors, I planned some parmesan/egg/saffron/quinoa-flour dumplings with chopped greens mixed in. They came out beautifully and balanced the soup. Here’s a general sense of what I did:
Nettle-Vegetable Broth with Saffron-Parmesan-Egg Dumplings (Passover-friendly)
- 2 quarts nettle broth (blanch/quickly boil a lot of stinging nettles, then strain and save the water)
- 2 quarts veggie stock or meat stock (include a parmesan rind if you’re making veggie stock)
- 3 carrots
- 1/2 head lacinato kale or your favorite green
- any other vegetables you’d like in your soup
- 1/3 cup almond flour, quinoa flour (if during Passover – Bob’s Red Mill carries this), rice flour or other
- 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
- 3 pinches saffron, crushed
- 1/4 cup minced greens of any sort — Deborah Madison’s original fennel is too strong for this version, because it overpowers the nettles, although it is absolutely delicious otherwise. i used scallion tops, dandelion greens and kale, because that’s what I had around
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
Prep: Heat up your veggie/meat broth and nettle broth in the same pot.
1. Heat milk and butter in pan. Crush and stir in saffron threads, and add the salt and pepper.
2. When milk is simmering and butter is melted, add the minced greens, stir.
3. Add the flour, turn of the heat, and stir in quickly.
4. Add the eggs one at a time and stir well.
5. Add the parmesan and stir gently.
6. You should have a sticky batter. Now, time to make the dumplings. You can cook them right into your boiling soup, or into a pot of boiling water and then transfer them. Drop in the batter, about a tablespoon or two per dumpling. When a dumpling floats to the surface, flip it. Let it cook about another 30 seconds, and then take it out and reserve on a plate. When all dumplings are cooked, pour them (back) into the soup, and let it sit with the heat off until ready to serve.
Optional: Grate a little parmesan on the bowl of soup, or stir in a little nettle pesto.
Photo (c) Jessica Levine