By Iron Chef Leftovers
Soups are a great meal since they don’t generally require a ton of ingredients, are easy to make in a large quantity, are easy to make from a technical standpoint and don’t require a ton of attention. One of the simplest and most delicious soups I have ever come across is the creamy nettle soup at the old Le Gourmand space in Ballard. This soup was so good that I think it might actually be the best thing that I ever had there. Unfortunately the restaurant is long gone, but the chef, the great Bruce Naftaly, still runs cooking classes and shows you dishes that he served in the restaurant. Since we are approaching the tail end of nettle season, I figured that this would be a good one to put out there, especially considering the somewhat unpredictable Northwest spring weather. Not sure where to get nettles? Try Foraged and Found – they are at the U-District Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and Ballard on Sundays. You probably only have 1 or 2 weeks left in nettle season though, so you many want to hurry.
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 medium leek, dark green part removed, quartered and rinsed and cut into ½ inch pieces, about 8 oz.
½ yellow onion cut into 6 parts, about 8 oz.
2 shallots peeled and quartered, about 4 oz.
1 Yukon gold potato, quartered, about 6 oz.
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
6 oz. nettles, washed
Salt and pepper
In a heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the butter until it stops foaming over medium heat. Add the shallots, leek and onions and stir. Cook for about 15 minutes or until they soften, stirring occasionally. If the veggies begin to brown, lower the heat slightly, you are looking to sweat them, not brown them. When the veggies are soft, add the potato and stock. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked (you can pierce them with the tip of a knife with no resistance). Add nettles and cover, cooking for 6-7 minutes until the nettles are wilted (this will also take out the stinging quality of the nettles). Remove from heat and puree in 2 batches, adding ½ of the cilantro to each batch. When done pureeing the soup, if the soup is too thick, stir in water or stock in small quantities until the desired thickness is achieved. If it is too thin, add some additional cooked potato puree to thicken it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or warm with a few grinds of fresh nutmeg and some nice bread.
If you can’t find nettles, use spinach instead. It won’t be as good but you will be able to make the soup all year round. The recipe will feed 4-6 people and scales really easily and can be served as either a main course or an appetizer. It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days but freezes well and reheats easily, so it makes for a nice meal in a hurry. This soup is ultra creamy and luxurious, and, best of all, involves no actual dairy and can be made completely vegan by using veggie stock and olive oil instead of chicken stock and butter.