It all started at the farmers market downtown Portland, last Saturday. I have not been there in two years and I was blown away by how big it got, how many incredible choices there are, and how many new things these amazing farmers are growing (thank you, thank you, thank you).
Back home in Transylvania I grew up buying everything from farmers market, all year round. I’ve secretly been looking all these years for familiar things and I have yet to find some, but last Saturday I got lucky and some of the few of my favorite spring greens were buried under this big tent, ignored and alone.
I nearly screamed… oh well, I think I did, and probably scared a few customers when I bought 4 bags of each, smiling and saying out loud “I can’t believe it, they are here, YAY”
Nettles are an amazing green if you can find it in the spring. They grow wild (a very invasive weed if kept in the garden) and they have a great texture to it once cooked. Loaded with minerals and nutrients (lots of iron), they are wonderful to use to revitalise your body after a long winter. You can enjoy then freshly cooked or as a tea from dried leaves – easily available like that. When boiling they act just like spinach, not a fan of hot water and just a few minutes are plenty to soften them a bit. The leaves are the only part that is good when cooked, as the stems are pretty woodsy (unless picked very young), and to tear them apart, I always use gloves ~ they mean it when they say stinging. Once cooked though they are very safe to handle. The whole experience really makes you feel like you are eating wild things.
Wild sorrel you can find in two varieties, one that looks like spinach, and one that looks like a bigger shamrock. It is a lemony flavor, a little sour (think kiwi fruit skin), but very refreshing.
Green garlic is another one of my liking of spring. It is mild, but fragrant. You can use it cooked and it gives a buttery garlic flavor to the dish or fresh for an amazing clean tolerable garlic flavor. You can see it mostly in the “garlic tips” state, which are the garlic plant before going into full flower bloom, but my favorite is the one that looks just like green onions. The leaves are flat (more like a little leek) and so so tasty. I grew up eating it just like that, with a slice of fresh bread, some feta and other cheeses I never see here, and some crisp red radishes. So so good for your belly.
1 cup long grain rice ( I use basmati most of the times)
1 pound stinging nettles
1 big handful of sorrel
1 1/2 cups feta ( I used sheep)
1 cup green garlic (stem and leaves) finely chopped
1 tbsp sour cream
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 stick of butter softened
To boil the rice I use the classic “one part rice, two parts water” method, and in the case of basmati I like to rinse it well first. I mix the water and the rice in a small pot, place it on high flame, and once boiling I turn the heat way way down and let it simmer covered until all the water is evaporated (you will hear is sizzling when you take the lid off… hopefully catching it before it starts burning. The idea is to keep an eye on it.) Once boiled, add the butter and give it a stir, then set it aside, still covered and get on with the nettles. Or you can do the nettles ahead of time. However you prefer.
Gloves on and eyes wide open I take each leaf away from the stem and place them all in a colander. The tips (about one inch tall) I leave hole since they are really tender. Give them a rinse and place them in boiling water for 3-5 minutes until tender, then drain them and place them to cool a little to make them easier to handle. I SAVE THE BROTH always. It is great for a heartier soup or for green smoothie base next morning. Once cooled, chop them finely and set them aside in a bowl.
To the nettles, add the stemless sorrel, washed and roughly chopped, and the garlic.
In a separate bowl, soften the sour cream by stirring it for a bit, then add the eggs, the flour, one cup of the crumbled feta cheese and the pepper and mix well. Poor this mixture over the greens, add the rice, and fold everything in until well incorporated.We’re getting close.
In a buttered baking dish (a 6×9 would do, but keep it about 2 inches tall) pour in the rice goodness. You can level it or leave it messy for a good home-baked look. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of feta over it and bake it for about 30-35 minutes in a preheated oven at 350F (medium high heat). The cheese melts, the top gets crusty and the taste is to salivate for.
Enjoy and let me know how you like it.