Last night was the blusteriest. It was overcast and raining all day; then, in the afternoon, the wind picked up, and it didn’t abate until early this morning. When Rachel got of work at the theatre and came over to hang out, we decided there was no better way to spend the rest of the night than to cook up a storm of our own in response to the dramatic weather.
Our fridge was full of veggies — a head of cauliflower and some limes from our last dumpster run that were calling out to be cooked with, some greens from our CSA, and a huge bag of rutabaga seconds and nettles from the farm — and our mission, we quickly determined, was to make the best use of them we could.
We set about chopping cauliflower and peeling and slicing rutabaga, roasting the former with cumin, cayenne, and mustard seed, and the latter with nutmeg, coriander, and cinnamon. The kitchen soon filled with spicy aromas as we chopped kale and the rain pounded on the windows outside.
We massaged the kale with lime juice, softening it for a salad, and reduced the big bag of nettles in the food processor down to a paste (but not before reserving the smallest, most tender leaves for drying into tea). Though we’d harvested buckets of them at the farm on Friday, they were still quite fresh, with slight stinging power intact. Working with mildly dangerous ingredients definitely adds to the fun of cooking.
As the veggies continued to get crispy in the oven, we worked on the nettle pesto, blending the nettles with olive oil, salt, a little lime juice, and toasted walnuts, until it all came together in a thick, smooth paste. It was one of my more successful pestos. The grassiness of the nettles was enhanced by the olive oil, while their bitter and nutty notes were brought out beautifully by the toasted walnuts. The bit of lime provided the necessary acidic brightness. All in all, it was strongly reminiscent of green tea — a deliciously complex, earthy, grassy, nutty flavour. I put a big jar of it in the freezer for later, and a small jar in the fridge for snacking.
When we pulled the cauliflower and rutabaga from the oven, they were beautifully browned, crispy on some edges, and definitely ready to be enjoyed. We tossed them both with the lime-massaged kale and other salad greens, toasted sunflower seeds, and a tiny shaving of parmigiano-reggiano. It was a bold salad with great flavours. I loved the combination of the spicy cayenne and the lime. We snacked on some leftover rutabaga chips, dipping some in tahini for a rich, nutty coating to go with the sweet spices and savoury flesh.
As often happens, I was full by the time we were finished cooking and ready to eat. I like tasting as I go, ok? But that didn’t prevent us from enjoying this hearty, comforting salad on a dark and stormy midnight.
There was plenty of salad left; it’s always nice having leftover roasted veggies in the fridge. Hans used some of the salad in his scrambled eggs this morning, which were delicious, and after Control Group rehearsal I came home and mixed the rest with cottage cheese, also a successful modification. The creaminess bound it all together, and it made it even heartier with all that protein.
I also checked on our drying nettles this afternoon. They’re well on their way to becoming delicious nettle tea!
And I could hardly leave the kitchen without sampling the nettle pesto the day after being made. You guessed it… canapé time!
The pesto had developed an even more unified flavour, mellowing out a bit, with the aura of green tea even more pronounced. I put it on some matzah from the dumpster (happy passover!), and topped it with some aged sheep’s milk cheese from France, left over from a YSFP wine and cheese party with Michael Babin this past week. It was delectable, the slightly soft and spongy cheese complementing the nutty, vegetal qualities of the pesto.
Meanwhile, such productive kitchen time has set me back in my vanilla extract update, recounting my second field trip, and sharing with you my simple chocolate soufflé recipe. But we’ll get there soon! In the meantime, it’s all about the nettles.