Sunday, February 3

Itching to cook Italian?

It may be our mild winter, or, seeing that the plant grows in areas of 'rich soil' (read: compost heaps), suddenly almost every tree in Rome is sprouting beneath it, luscious green patches of Italian poison ivy: The Stinging Nettle plant - or, Roman Nettle as it was commonly known in Britain back in the day [the Brits like it so much, they've even installed a Be Nice to Nettles Week.  Why the rich soil? I'm fairly certain it's due to dog poop, if you really want the scoop (or the non-scooped version).  But, leave it to the wily Romans to make lemonade out of green lemons.  There are entire recipe and diet categories featuring the nasty plant; not one of them telling you how to go about picking your nettles without breaking out in hives.
Not one to be outwitted by this Zero carbon footprint plant, I just need to don a thick pair of gloves and even thicker-soled boots to wade into the dog poop in order to (perhaps) get my nettles.  But why bother?  It is a wonderful food.
I was first introduced to a nettle risotto (risotto all'ortica) by amazing culinary expert and owner of Rome's Beehive Hotel.  I have been intrigued ever since.  And if I can just figure out how to get the plants that are above the average dog wiener height, I figure I'm good to go.

So, pick your nettles and feast on risotto, gnocchi or an even better omelette - it'll make your day.  Here's a terrific simple recipe (just 20 mins to make!) for risotto, compliments of Cooking Mama at Vivere&Mangiare a Km '0' 

step-by-step pics on their website

Recipe in Italian:  50gr di riso carnaroli a testa, 1 spicchio di aglio, due belle manciate di foglie d'ortica, burro, vino bianco, brodo vegetale, grana padano grattugiato, trito di pepe nero.
Procedo così: davvero veloce, in meno di 20 minuti si fa tutto! Staccate le foglie dai gambi e lavatele accuratamente. Asciugate le foglie e tritatele con la mezzaluna, unitamente ad uno spicchio di aglio. In una padella antiaderente, faccio sciogliere una noce di burro, quindi unisco il trito di ortica e aglio. Cuocio per qualche minuto, poi sfumo con il vino bianco. Aggiungo il riso, faccio tostare, mescolo bene, quindi sfumo nuovamente con il vino bianco. A questo punto aggiungo abbondante brodo vegetale e lascio cuocere (per i tempi, tenete conto della tipologia di riso che state usando). Al termine della cottura, cospargo con abbondante grana padano grattugiato ed un giro di pepe nero macinato al momento.
RICE CARNAROLI 50g / person - 1 garlic clove - 2 hearty handfuls of nettle leaves - butter - white wine - veggie broth - grana padano cheese & black pepper.  
Wash leaves & dry / dice up well w/garlic clove / fry up quickly with pad of butter / Add white wine / Add rice & toast it in pan, mixing well and adding more white wine as you go.  Add broth & cook til rice is done (depending on type you use) / Add pepper & grana padano cheese to serve.
Note: When it comes to the above recipe, I like the part of making sure they're very clean prior to use.  Any suggestions?

For more on nettles try LiveStrong:

1 comment:

marta said...

Talk about a cheap lunch! When I lived in the Casentino I used to pick ortiche along the side of the road outside of the house and make risotto. Delicious, nutty flavor.