Greetings from a grey Sweden,
Unfortunately the sun has left us yet again over here after a blissful weekend of sun. I am enjoying the quiet and serenity of this more somber weather however and accepting that spring will arrive a little later than expected. I have however a very springy recipe to share with you that includes ingredients found in nature typically in spring here in the Northern hemisphere. It’s a ramps nettle pesto pasta salad as you will have gathered from the post title and it’s totally green and totally delicious.
Nettles do sting as you probably know but we can actually eat them! Maybe you knew that too. If you didn’t I’m here to assure you that it’s true and all you need to do is steep your nettles in hot water to remove those stingy little hairs on the plant. After that you have perfectly good and nutritious greens ready to use in a variety of recipes. They can be used more or less to replace spinach, I wouldn’t recommend eating them raw however and you know why. I did however learn from my friend Agata who’s teaching us a lot about wild plants that there is another type of nettle that is both edible and doesn’t sting so yay for that! It does however taste a little different and it not the kind we’ll be using in this recipe. We’ll be using that kind that you for sure cannot get wrong when you go foraging for it – pick the one that leaves a burning sensation, ha!
In addition to the nettles I picked up in my garden I’m incorporating ramps into this recipe. At this point we’re pretty much at the end of ramps season here in the south of Sweden but hurry on out there into the woods and pick some before it’s too late (or get some at your green grocer if you don’t want to get down and dirty or woodsy fresh). It’s a leafy plant with buds that ultimately flowers in beautiful white. They usually grow many in one spot close to water which makes it all the more lovely when they flower. You won’t miss them as they have a very particular garlicky scent, if you’re uncertain rub a leaf between your fingers and see if you can get a whiff of garlic. You’ll probably smell them as you walk around though, they are that pungent and make a great substitute for garlic and onions to flavour meals. They’re also yummy sauteed as a side or thrown into stir frys.
The final wild plant used in this recipe is ground elder. It is not essential as I simply use it as a salad green but seeing as it’s taken over my entire garden I thought it could give back a little in this recipe.
Ps. I know that the ground elder was here before me, I just like to complain about it being in what I like to think is my space.
The ground elder is a little tougher than most baby leaves we buy at the store but still great to mix in with others in salad. It has a mild flavour. And I should have taken a photo of it to show you exactly what it looks like but that didn’t happen, sorry! You can see it skirting the serving dish though with roughly five or so smaller oval leaves growing on a fine stalk. But as I said use the greens you’ve got and like.
Last but not least I have made this pesto pasta salad oil free by using avocado as the base for the pesto rather than olive oil. Having read The China Study, Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes (for my mom) and parts of How Not to Die I have seriously started to cut back on oil in my cooking. I do think fat has a function for us humans of course but to an extent and only coming from certain sources do I now believe it is healthy for us. More on this at some other point when I’m more certain of my stand point and experience but as of now I am reducing oil and glad to have found some real food for though on the subject. If you guys have any thoughts on this subject and experiences to share I’d love to hear about them.
Now please enjoy a very simple recipe using some fun and different ingredients that hopefully you’ll be able to find in some woods near you or even in your garden! x
RAMPS + NETTLE PESTO PASTA SALAD (OIL-FREE)
YIELDS: 2-4 servings / TIME: 30 min
Ramps + nettle pesto:
1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup young nettles, mainly leaves
1/2 cup ramps
4 cups pasta, I used gluten free fusilli
1 cup green peas
4 large handfuls leafy greens, I used rocket and ground elder from my garden
Cook your pasta and when it is a minute or two from finished add your peas wether frozen or fresh and let them cook through. Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.
Place your walnut halves or pieces in a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a crumbly texture. Place in a mixing bowl.
Add your avocado, nutritional yeast and lemon juice to the now empty food processor and process until smooth. Add this to the mixing bowl along with the walnut crumble.
Boil some water and immerse your nettles into the water for roughly two minutes. This will remove the stinging hairs of the nettle. Then either place them into a mortar or the food processor along with the ramps. Now if you’re using a pestle and mortar use the pestle to break down the greens until they are in small pieces with a lot of juices released. Otherwise pulse in the food processor until a similar texture is met. Add to the mixing bowl.
Combine the walnut crumble, avocado paste and wild herbs well and mix your pasta and peas through it.
Place your greens in a shallow serving bowl to create a bed for the salad and then add your pesto pasta and peas on top to serve.