The best, easiest recipe to make with (stinging) nettles is a basic potage, (blended soup). It’s a detox classic among crunchy-granola types, but what I like about it is that it lets the wild green flavor really shine. Swirl in a little crème fraiche and it’s simply divine. Because nettles aren’t as easy to come by in North America as they are in France, I tried this recipe with another abundant spring green: radish leaves. The flavor is more like watercress (not a bad thing) but still has that rich, earthy, tannic flavor that needs little or no adornment.
Nettle (or Bitter Green) Soup
This soup can be made with nettles, radish tops, watercress or even arugula—it’s a great way to use up wilted bitter salad greens—and served hot or cold (like a vichyssoise). Garnish with small edible flowers (like the wild rapeseed petals, shown in the photo), if desired.
1 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1 medium leek, white part only, quartered and cut into small pieces
3 cups tender stinging nettle leaves or radish top leaves
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 medium Russet, Idaho, or Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced (10 oz.)
1 large sprig fresh thyme
4 cups water
Heat the butter or olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, or until the leek is softened. Stir in the nettle or radish top leaves, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted and have turned a dark green (like spinach or other leafy greens). Stir in the garlic, then add the potato, thyme, and water. Season with 1 heaping tsp. of coarse sea salt or ½ tsp. fine salt or kosher salt. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the soup 20 minutes.
Remove the thyme sprigs, and blend the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasonings, and serve as is, or with a little cream or crème fraîche, hot or cold. Makes 4 cups