Monday, April 11, 2011

The Soup Project: Creamy Curried Nettle Soup

Slow fast food sounds a lot like an oxymoron, but that's how Jill Nussinow MS, RD, aka the Veggie Queen describes her newest book: The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Minutes. This book is scheduled for release soon and my advice: get out your checkbooks now and order a copy pronto because this is veggie and pressure cooking inspiration at its finest.

After I read all about using pressure cookers, I decided I definitely need a new one. The newer models are very cool and lest apt to explode. I still have an old jiggle top, and it's really past time to go, sometimes I just don't notice how long I've had some things. After dreaming about a new pressure cooker, I searched for a soup recipe to post.

Nettles are one the first greens of spring, and I couldn't miss the opportunity to add a nettle soup to this Soup Project recipe collection. As I flipped through the recipes, I figured I could substitute nettles for most any green.

Why nettles?

The harbinger of spring, the lowly nettle is also a superfood, high in iron, potassium, calcium, vitamins A, C and B complex. And this plant with tiny cruel spikes has been used by herbalists around the world for centuries, according to this website. Nettles can reduce allergies, cleanse blood, reduce inflammation and pain, and though some farmers sell nettles at markets well into summer, check the leaf size before you buy, because you should only eat the small new leaves like those pictured above. The larger leaves are harder to digest.

I bought a big bag of the spike covered leaves from Found and Foraged at the University District Market this past Saturday. The bag was tied in a knot at the top so people aren't tempted to reach in and find out if the leaves are really prickly.

I found the only warnings about nettles was on this website that mentioned nettles can interfere with the body's abilities to clot if a person takes coumadin or aspirin. Also, this website mentioned nettles' possible interactions with antidepressants but most websites like this one sang praises for the prickly weed. And I've eaten them for years.

Fresh nettles only keep for a few days and when you're ready to use them, be sure to pull on some rubber gloves first. Wash them before you cook them, and don't overcook them, or the brilliant green color fades. When cooked, nettle's fierce stings dissolve away.

I adapted the following recipe from a "Creamy Curried Spinach Soup" in Jill Nussinow's new book. When I first read the recipe I thought it listed coconut milk and 1 cup of nondairy milk, but it really only listed one or the other. I guess this is why I make up recipes because I don't always get them exactly right the first time around. Anyway, just keep in mind it's a recipe, a pattern and you can follow or adapt as you like.

Creamy Curried Nettle Soup
(Serves 4-6)
This recipe originally listed spinach, but I discovered other greens work well and it's a great way to enlist your pressure cooker and cook the soup a lot faster. Though nettles take a bit longer than spinach, it still only took 3 minutes to quick release in a pressure cooker and about 5 to 6 minutes to simmer the nettles on the stovetop because I left the stems attached to the leaves.

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder (use more or less according to your taste)
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
2 small white or yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 to 8 cups of nettles (small leaves and stems only)
1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk
1 cup nondairy milk (coconut or rice milk) or add more water to thin
1 teaspoon agave nectar or Sucanat
Juice of 1 meyer lemon (optional)
Soy yogurt or a nondairy dressing for garnish

1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add leeks and saute for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon water or broth and continue cooking and stirring for another minute. Add curry and stir again. Add 2 1/2 cups water or broth, potatoes and salt. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Bring to pressure over high heat, then lower heat to maintain high pressure for 3 minutes.

2. Release lid away from you and stir in nettles. (It will seem like a lot of nettles compared to the liquid.) Add coconut milk and 1 cup of nondairy milk. Simmer until nettles become soft--about 5 or 6 minutes.

3. Puree soup with an immersion blender or by batches in a blender until soup is creamy and smooth. Return to pot and cook on low for about a minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. I added a Meyer lemon because I have so many of them, and the addition seemed perfect. Also, the original recipe listed cilantro but I didn't know if cilantro and nettles would pair as perfectly with nettles, so I omitted cilantro in this recipe. I served the soup with homemade croutons on the side, but they didn't distract my Cooking Assistant.

Finn scores this soup four paws up! It's nettle season-- why not give it a try?

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