Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nettle and Egg Soup

Every spring I am struck by the extraordinary colors and flavors that emerge out of winter. This week, besides the Elderberry Blossoms, there were morels, nettles and pastured eggs overflowing in the marketplace.

Today, there is nettle soup with an egg poached in the broth for lunch and again for dinner.

The nettles sit in large baskets, washed, sorted and prepackaged in plastic bags with directions about gloves, skin, eyes, and boiling water. Easy enough. They grow upright and erect making a clean harvest easy. A quick dip in boiling water and a plunge in ice water steals the toxins and fixes the emerald green.

Every time I see them I remember the first summer I ran through a patch of nettles in the Columbia Gorge. A summer family picnic. I was eight and in my bathing suit. My hair pixie short. It was hot. I had sticky toasted marshmallow in hand as I raced, through the tall weeds behind the large stone fireplace and against my brothers, to the picnic table. Always adventurous and competitive, still, I arrived last and itchy with nettle bumps. My strong memory of a hot and hazy summer day lingers over the stove as I make this soup.

Blanche nettles quickly and chill in ice water. Saute spring garlic or leek in butter. Add nettles and water or chicken stock to cover. A handful or rice is optional too. Cook uncovered at a low simmer for about thirty minutes. Cool. Puree. Season with salt. Finish with olive oil.

For a bit more heft, add a poached egg. Either poach the egg in the nettle soup or poach separately and drop into soup. This'll do fine with many other spring greens too; pea shoots, green garlic, spinach and turnip too. None, though, are like the woodsy nettle tonic.