Over the weekend Chie and I went foraging. It was bright and warmer than it’s been in months. The late afternoon light highlighted something I hadn’t noticed about stinging nettle before: the newest leaves are a deep purple, sewn through with the palest of greens.
I don’t know why this makes me giddy. Chie and I both spent a good deal of time holding up the shoots in the sunlight, marveling at the stinging hairs and gentle color scheme. Maybe it’s because we’ve been cooped up, eating preserved foods. Gorgeous ones, maybe, but nothing straight from the ground has been on the dinner table for months.
Fresh food and being in a sunny, wild place makes for a reflective mood. I thought about the sunshine coaxing nettles from the ground, noticing that what unfolds looks like it’s been hibernating – those new leaves are dark, like the place they came from. I thought about how apropos it is that the season begins with the wildest of forageables, the nettle’s stinging hairs making it something a little bit daring to eat (even if they are neutered in the steamer). And I thought about beginnings (of course – it’s springtime) and kick-starting the season by eating something from the forest.
Maybe you live in a place where there aren’t enough wild spaces. Or maybe the concept of foraging is foreign or you don’t have the luxury (which it really was – our friends allowed our kids to play in their house and around their property while we tucked ourselves under the trees all afternoon). If you don’t have the means or the inclination, that’s okay. There are other things to do with the newness of spring. It’s a more natural time for resolutions, anyway. One idea: you could make today’s frittata with spinach and decide, for instance, not to cook with tomatoes until they come into season in your area. (I’m thinking about this issue because I watched this video from The Perennial Plate earlier in the week.)
Or if you live where we do, here in Olympia, jot a note in your calendar to head downtown for Arts Walk on April 27th. Chie and I, along with other food bloggers and a cooking instructor from the community, will be selling our homemade delectables at the street market to raise money for the Thurston County Food Bank. I’ve been really excited to be the organizer of this event, similar to this one in Seattle that I read about in the fall. Check out our page on the event (there’s also a tab at the top of this page), spread the word using our Facebook event page and come down to do something wild and generous for hungry people in our community to kick off your spring.
Now, on with the cooking. I hope you enjoy Chie’s frittata – packed with nettles, salmon and feta. A fail-proof combination. Happiest of days!
Feta Frittata with Stinging Nettle and Smoked Salmon
The warmth of spring has shown itself. Jenni and I had the opportunity
to forage the first of our nettles last week. We owe our thanks to our friend
Melissa and her lovely family, and spring!, for inviting us onto their land.
Nettles, the nutrient-dense greens that prick you even with the gentlest touch:
such great blood tonics and allergy healers. I love to steep them and drink
the beautiful green liquid it creates. We still have those cold winter evenings
which make me crave something rich and hearty. Following is a recipe I
love to make when I want something tasty, warm and nourishing.
6 cups nettles, cooked down it will be about 1½ cups (supplement with spinach
or other hearty greens if you aren’t able to gather enough nettles)
1 medium onion, small dice
3 T ghee
½ lb crimini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 t Celtic sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 – 6 oz smoked salmon
3.5 oz feta cheese
¼ c heavy cream (for a richer frittata) or other milk (I often use unsweetened
plain hemp milk)
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Sauté the onions in the ghee until just starting to turn translucent.
Add mushrooms, sea salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant then remove
from heat and set aside.
In the meantime, set up a steaming system. Steam the nettles until just
wilted. The stingers should lay flat and not hurt to the touch anymore.
Squeeze out excess water and chop. Set aside. The water can be reserved
to drink since it’s so nutrient dense.
Prepare the 10-inch ceramic tart dish, large pie plate or cast iron skillet
by rubbing it with ghee.
Break the smoked salmon into bite-sized pieces and spread evenly on the
bottom of the dish. Spread the sautéed onion mixture and top with the
chopped nettles. Crumble the feta into small chunks and sprinkle
on top. Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium bowl and pour evenly over
the layers. If using a shallower dish you may need to add about a third of
the mixture at a time, tapping the sides of the dish before adding more
custard so it won’t overflow.
Place the fritatta on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
Cover with a lid or foil. Turn the heat down to 325 F and bake for another
30 minutes. [Note: baking times will vary widely depending on the heat of
your oven and the type of baking pan. Jenni’s, in the cast-iron skillet
pictured below, was cooked through by the end of the first 30 minutes.]
Check for doneness by holding the edges of the dish with a towel and wiggling
it to see if the center jiggles or by testing the center with a butter knife. If the
egg seems runny or sticky bake another 10 minutes or until the center
doesn’t jiggle. Keep an close eye on it at this stage. Overcooked eggs are not
too pleasurable so you want a just-set custard. Enjoy!