Behind the shed is a wild and disorganized mess.
A treasure trove.
It really depends on the context.
March is a verdant time here in Southern California. Everything is growing green, the winds are blowing, we may even get some rain (unlikely). Weed season is upon us.
For lawn aficionados and meticulous gardeners, this is a frustrating and difficult time. Dandelions reproduce while you watch, all kinds of sticky, prickly, green plants find life in the cracks of sidewalks and driveways, and any untended land is a riot of leaves and greens and budding flowers.
For those of us who love to graze, these patches of objectionable plants look nothing like weeds and everything like salad.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this year and the plentiful (and somewhat obnoxious) stinging nettles thriving behind the shed and preventing easy access to the Meyer lemon trees, and the dandelion bounty growing in my front lawn, I came up with a recipe for a creamy, vegan, stinging nettle and dandelion greens soup.
The flavors are subtle and fresh, and the thick and zingy cashew cream gives the soup a kick. Pair it with some fresh baked bread, such as Irish Soda Bread, and you have yourself a comforting Spring meal.
Creamy Stinging Nettle and Dandelion Soup
Fresh stinging nettle leaves (enough to fill 1/2 of a grocery bag)
Fresh dandelion leaves (approximately 1 cup chopped)
4 cups vegetable broth
4 red potatoes in 1 inch cubes
1 large red onion diced
2 cloves garlic diced
1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Gathering the Nettles:
Harvest the nettle leaves from young plants that have not yet begun to flower. Avoid leaves that are larger than 3 inches long. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and thick gloves to avoid getting stung.
Preparing the Nettles:
Once gathered, rinse the leaves to remove dirt and unwanted plant particles.
Soak the nettles in a large mixing bowl for 10 to 15 minutes.
This should remove most, if not all, of the sting.
You can also blanch the nettles, boiling the leaves for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute, then transfer them to a bowl of ice water to shock them.
While the nettles are soaking, dice the red onion, toss it into a soup pot, and saute it in olive oil.
When the onions are glassy, add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and continue to saute until fragrant.
Cube the red potatoes and add to the pot, then pour in the vegetable broth. Simmer for about 20 minutes (this will depend on the size of your potato cubes– the larger the cube, the longer it will take to cook). Season with salt and pepper.
Add the dandelion greens and the nettles to the pot and stir. Add water to make sure all ingredients are submerged and simmer for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes begin to break down.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the garlic cashew cream. This is optional, but it does make the soup very rich and creamy. See recipe below.
Once the soup is cooked, either transfer to a blender and puree until smooth, or use an emersion blender and puree in the pot.
Ladle into your favorite bowl, swirl in some cashew cream or eat it as is.
Garlic Cashew Cream
1 cup raw cashews soaked for 30 min to over night
3 cloves fresh garlic
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
1 cup water (more or less depending on how thick you would like the cream)
Drain the soaked cashews and put them in food processor with lemon juice, garlic, salt, and water. Process until smooth and creamy. Add more water if needed.