Nettle-Mushroom Pie with Pine Nuts

March 28, 2011

All this cold rain has the nettles taking their sweet time, but in my spot, they’re up a little. They’re up enough, anyway, about three nodes or so, and I snip off the top two and slip them in my bag. Zephyr whines from his stroller, bored, and I’m a little afraid he’ll blow my cover so I hurry. I pick a bag of venomous verdancy and shuffle homeward down the muddy trail.

I stop to admire a trillium in bloom. Zephyr is not amused with this distraction (or my chipper insistence that it’s a dainty harbinger of spring), and hollers his protest. He throws his snack cup down the ravine, and I clamber down after it, less because I care about the cup, and more because I don’t want to leave any evidence that I’ve been there, stealing nettles.

A lot of trouble for a plant that’d sooner inject me with histamine and bitter malice than grant me any kind word, let alone a free meal. But persistence in urban foraging has its perks.

Case in point? This pie.

This easy pie (made even easier by laziness, by ready-made pastry dough, all rolled out) is worth picking nettles. It’s worth going gloveless, even. It’s worth the mud and the hurry, and it’s worth a climb down a slick ravine to a babbling creek bed to fetch a trifling object cast angrily aside by an impatient Zephyr.

And I’ll tell you what:

Fill a clean sink with cold water and swish your hard-gotten nettles around in there with tongs to get them as clean as you can muster. If you’re very fussy, you can do this a few times, but I think it’s fine after the first rinse. Blanch these clean nettles (oh, about a pound or so) in a pot of boiling water just until they flash bright green – like 10 seconds or thereabouts. Drain and shock in cold water to keep that virid flush. Drain again, spin in your salad-spinning device if you have one, and squeeze out the water that remains. If there a lot of big stems, you can pick the leaves off, otherwise just chop these puppies up finely.

In your food processor (or the like), combine a 1-pound tub of cottage cheese (I prefer the whole milk kind, but you could easily cut some corners here with a lower fat version), about a teaspoon of lemon zest (I used Meyer), about 10 or so scratches of fresh nutmeg, a little handful of grated Parm and some salt and pepper (I’ve been preserving lemons and used some of the lemony salt). Crack in an egg, and crumble the last half of your chunk of feta. Whiz this until it’s smooth and silky.

In a medium pan, heat up some butter and a little olive oil (or bacon fat, I implore you). Saute about a cup of chopped onion, a few cloves of smashed garlic and a handful of sliced mushrooms. When it starts to get translucent and aromatic, add a few pinches of dill and thyme. Turn off the heat, stir in the chopped nettles and stir in the cottage cheese “ricotta.” Pour this into your pie shell and top with a sprinkle of pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375° for about 45 minutes or until everything is set up.

Let it cool off for about 10 minutes (be strong!) while you fix a nice salad to go with. Pour a glass of fizzy Pinot Grigio, then pour another one to go with dinner.

Oh my goodness, is this ever a Thing. Best nettles ever.

Note: For more information on identifying and foraging nettles, check out this post I wrote for Culinate.

15 Responses to Nettle-Mushroom Pie with Pine Nuts

  1. Melissa
    March 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    That is beautiful! I bet the pine nuts add a certain heavenliness too.

    My neighbor makes a mean pesto out of foraged greens, primarily nettles, sorrel, dandelions. I love hunting urban greens!

  2. March 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    What a splendid pie! I love that unusual combination.



  3. March 29, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Yum! I’ll have to leave the pinenuts out (Paul has developed “pine mouth”) but this looks magic. I love the bit of lemony salt added to it.

  4. March 29, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Do I detect a hint of embarrassment at foraging dinner or were you just on someone else’s property? Are Oregonians so protective of their weeds? In the UK, nettles grow virtually fucking everywhere, and if a neighbor were to see you chopping his/hers down they’d probably invite you to finish the job and then ask you to marry their daughter, or at least, have a cuppa.

    Lovely pie. I’ve not had cottage cheese in the longest time. It’s kind of an underrated cheese, no?

  5. March 29, 2011 at 5:30 am

    So much enjoyment comes from foraging your own food Heather.

  6. March 29, 2011 at 9:18 am

    WOW, this looks so scrumptious! I’m a vegan myself, but i’m totally going to make this with tofu instead :) I sent it to my sister too, who lives in WI and always harvests her own morels in the spring and of course nettles are abounding there as well. How good would THAT be! Nicely done! I love the photo of the trillium too, those grew all over the place in the woods where we grew up, very nostalgic :)

  7. March 29, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Melissa – I usually use late-season nettles for pesto. Since they are so delicious and tender this time of year, they make a great vegetable.

    Rosa – Splendid is a wonderful word.

    Alicia – You could omit the nuts, or you could use a different one, I suppose. More cheese, that’d work.

    Jonny – Technically, I was on private property. And technically, I was in an ecological restoration area. I know I’m not doing any harm, but I just don’t want to draw any attention, lest I be asked to leave. :)

    Val – It’s true! I hope the boy finds it as rewarding as I do one day.

    Mickey – I was totally thinking this could be an easy vegan conversion with tofu – I’d use a firm silken (Japanese) variety for the closest texture.

  8. March 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Fun idea. You could spring this on someone who might be suspecting a spinach quiche and then you say, “GOTCHA” (in a good way of course). And thank you for advocating bacon fat!

  9. March 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Beautiful! I need to do some foraging, see if I can find nettles.

  10. Sara
    March 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Great idea–been stung enough times, I’ve been looking forward to taking my revenge by eating a few…

  11. March 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Rachel – That is a funny idea. Or I could grasp my throat, pretending it’s getting stung.

    Vicki – They really do grow pretty much anywhere – just find some little river or creek bed and poke around.

    Sara – The best revenge is eating well.

  12. March 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    This nettle pie might be the most quintessentially Portlandish thing since The Decemberists’ “Beowulf spilled my latte.”

    My feta will be ready just in time to ravage the nettle patch just outside the back door.

  13. lo
    March 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    *sigh* This is giving me a craving like you wouldn’t believe.
    Thoroughly enjoyed your nettle hunting story too!

  14. April 1, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Hmm. I totally need to find someone who knows where to find them and get to foraging. It’s been cold here for March and it snowed (albeit briefly) in Philadelphia today…I wonder if they’re up yet.

  15. Pingback: The Kitchn