I like to think I'm so tough. I ride my bike through NYC traffic and thunderstorms and heat waves. I've carried an ottoman home on the subway. I've seen knife fights and gun arrests and more giant rats and roaches than I'd like to admit. Not much fazes me.
So when I saw the sign at the farmer's market a few weeks ago warning me to WEAR GLOVES and HANDLE WITH CARE, I was sceptical. Like the tough New Yorker that I am, I reached in to grab a bunch. Almost immediately, the farmer jumped right to my side with a pair of rubber gloves in hand. Those are stinging nettles, he said, and they do sting.
This is a fact I can attest to, having picked off the nettle leaves by hand without gloves several nights later to make this pesto. They do sting. Not as badly as a bee or salt on a paper cut, but you'll definitely be feeling it all along your fingers for awhile. Even if you're careful. Even if you're tough.
Don't let that stop you from making this recipe. If you find stinging nettles, get them. Make this pesto from the leaves. The stems, when boiled in water with some mint leaves, make a tea that tastes just lovely, especially when chilled. I've read it also helps with allergies.
Ingredients for about ¾ cup Stinging Nettle Pesto:
Make the Pesto:
Carefully remove the nettle leaves from the stems. If you don't use rubber gloves, your fingers will likely sting a bit. Chop the green garlic.
In a pan over medium heat, cook the nettles in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about five minutes. Add the green garlic and cook for an additional two minutes.
In a food processor or blender, process the nettles and garlic with the nuts and remaining olive until puréed and smooth. If using, stir in the red pepper flakes and grated cheese and process for another few seconds.
To eat, toss with pasta or spread on some thick, crusty bread. It's also good mixed into a frittata.