I’ve recently decided that spring is my favorite season for food. There’s something so exciting and delicious about all of the greens and sprouts and shoots that arrive with the last of the rains. Everything has an earthy flavor along with a mild vegetal sweetness; a lovely balance to take us out of the deeper flavors of winter.
Nettles are an emblematic spring food. The plants continue to grow through the summer, but the best time to cook with them is in spring, when the tender young shoots have just sprouted from the root network.
The foragers among you have your secret spots; I prefer to gather mine at the farmers market, from the Springwater Farm table, where they also sell piles and piles of beautiful mushrooms (a few of which make an appearance in the following recipe).
This recipe is adapted from the one provided by Springwater Farm.
1 lb potatoes, diced into 1/2” cubes
1/2 lb young nettles
1/2 lb mushrooms, a combination of shiitake, crimini, and maitake if possible, cleaned, shiitakes stemmed, and chopped
2-4 tb butter
1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt, plus more and pepper to taste
1/4 c crème fraîche or sour cream, plus more for serving
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 min. Put the chicken stock on to heat to a simmer.
Wearing gloves, put the nettles in a large bowl or pot. Drain the potatoes, pouring the water over the nettles to wilt them (this renders the nettles stingless).
Drain the nettles and chop roughly.
Melt 2 tb butter in the soup pot, add the nettles and stew gently for a few minutes. If the mixture gets dry, add a little chicken stock.
Add the potatoes and stock to the soup pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Puree the soup, either in batches in a blender, or using an immersion blender stick. Return pureed soup to the pot and taste for seasoning; start with a tsp of salt and add pepper and more salt as desired to bring up the flavors.
While the soup is simmering, put the mushrooms, 2 tb butter, and a pinch of salt into a saucepan and cook, covered, over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.
Add the mushrooms and crème fraîche to the soup, reserving a few mushrooms for garnish if you like.
Serve the soup in bowls, drizzled with additional crème fraîche and topped with the reserved mushrooms.