Monday, February 4, 2019

A Little Kitchen Witchery and Stinging Nettle Risotto #FoodieReads


While the rest of the country was watching a football game yesterday, I was playing kitchen witch and working with my stinging nettles from Farmer Jamie at Serendipity Farms. Yes, I do know what the game is called. And, yes, I did know which teams are playing, But, no, I didn't really care.


These nettles and a Hawaiian version of Banangrams were much more entertaining. The word game would have been easier, however, if I actually knew enough Hawaiian words! Still the boys and I had fun while Jake went to a football viewing party. Back to the post at hand...

On the Page

Circe by Madeline Miller* came highly recommended, so I picked up a copy along with her first book, The Song of Achilles. I plan to read that one soon.

This is Miller's reimagining of Circe's story. Circe is the daughter of Titan sun god Helios and Perse one of the many Oceanid nymphs and she is renowned for her knowledge of potion and herbs. When my older son asked what I was reading, I asked if he remembered her from The Odyssey. "Oh, is she the one that turned men into pigs?" Yes!

While I have always loved Greek mythology since my mom and I used to read Mythology by Edith Hamilton at the breakfast table before I went to school, since my Western Civilization class in college when we read The Iliad one month and The Odyssey the next, and since I read illustrated myths to the boys when they were little, Circe left me unsatisfied.

I liked Miller's prose. Her writing was enchanting and her descriptions pulled me in to the ancient world and the scene. As I mentioned, I've always enjoyed the stories of the gods and goddesses. So that was enjoyable.

What I didn't like: the story. I liked the idea of the story, giving Circe an entire back story and making her experiences the focus. However, there wasn't a lot of movement in the plot and the ending was abysmal...sort of like the ending of LOST. Did she successfully transform herself? Did she not? I dislike cliffhangers in that sense. I suspect there will be a sequel. Maybe. But I will still pick up The Song of Achilles because I have it on my shelf and I am curious to see how Miller reimagines that one.


But I was inspired into the kitchen for some kitchen witchery, Circe-style. "Pharmakis, Aeëtes named me, witch, but all my strength was in those flowers..." (pg. 81).

In describing her transition to her exile: "I learned to braid my hair back, so it would not catch on every twig, and how to tie my skirts at the knee to keep the burrs off. I learned to recognize the different blooming vines and gaudy roses, to spot the shining dragonflies and coiling snakes. I climbed the peaks where the cypresses speared black into the sky, then clambered down to the orchards and vineyards where purple grapes grew thick as coral. I walked the hills, the buzzing meadows of thyme and lilac, and set my footprints across the yellow beaches. ...I stroked the glossy brown scorpions who braved me with their tails" (pg. 82).

Kitchen Witchery

Thanks to my friend Farmer Jamie at Serendipity Farms, I don't have to braid my hair, tie up my skirts, and go forage for the stinging nettle I want to use! But I did pull on gloves and get everything set up to prep them so I wouldn't have to touch anything else until I was finished.


Nettles just need to be blanched for a minute to remove the sting, then they are harmless and so nutritious. The peanut gallery watched me with doubt in their eyes. "Mom," asked the Precise Kitchen Elf, "if you have to wear gloves to touch it, do you really think we should be eating it!?" Hush...you'll like it.

Stinging Nettle Risotto

Ingredients makes 8 servings
  • 8 C fresh stinging nettle leaves
  • 6 to 7 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed, and divided in half
  • water
  • ice
  • 1 to 2 T olive oil + a splash for cooking
  • 2 T butter
  • 3 C arborio rice
  • 6 C organic broth
  • 1-1/2 C water
  • 1/2 C wine (I used dry white wine)
  • 8 ounces truffle cheese, cubed and at room temperature
  • 4 oz mascarpone cream
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • flake salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fried onions as a garnish, optional

Procedure

Stinging Nettles
I like to use a pot with a removable strainer to make draining it quick and easy. Fill pot - with strainer nestled inside - with water and bring to a boil. Place ice in a mixing bowl and pour in 2 C cold water.

In the meantime, pluck the leaves from the stems with gloved hands. Once you have 8 C of nettle leaves, submerge them in the boiling water until they are wilted and have turned a brilliant emerald green, approximately 30 seconds. Remove the strainer and plunge the leaves into the ice water bath. They can stay in there as long as you need. Drain the leaves place in the bowl of a food processor.

Add 3 cloves of garlic to the food processor and 1 to 2 T olive oil. Process until you have a  thick pesto consistency. Set aside. This made about 1 C of paste.

Risotto
Bring your broth, water, and wine to a boil in a large saucepan. Then reduce it to a simmer and keep it on a burner adjacent to your risotto pan.


Melt 2 T butter with a splash of olive oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. Add in the remaining garlic and give a quick stir. Add in the rice and stir until completely coated with oil and butter.

Add one ladle of simmering broth at a time, stirring, stirring, and stirring some more till the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until the rice is soft. If you need more liquid, just add more; if you don't use all of the stock, that's okay, too.

Stir in the stinging nettle paste and the cubes of truffle cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes until the cheese is nice and melted. Stir in mascarpone cheese and parsley. Season to taste with flake salt and pepper.


To serve, spoon out individual servings. Sprinkle with fried onions, if using. Serve immediately.


*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Here's what everyone else read in February 2019: here.

2 comments:

  1. I have seen recipes with stinging nettles before. This sounds like it was a winning dish....very important on Super Bowl Sunday.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've never even heard of Stinging Nettles before. But this looks great!

    ReplyDelete

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