This is the dish Grandma called “spring’s blessing.” It is common all over Romania, with different variations. Romanians often debate over methods of preparing it, but they all agree upon serving it with polenta. Sometimes fried eggs find their way onto the plate, too, draped over the bed of green nettles. The dish tastes a lot like spinach, but less metallic.
Makes 4 servings
- 2 pounds freshly harvested spring nettles
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon white flour
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the fresh nettle leaves thoroughly in cold water in a deep pot. Use rubber gloves to protect your skin from the stings. Don’t drain the water; instead, remove the nettles with a skimmer to allow any impurities to fall to the vessel’s bottom before changing the water. Repeat this operation several times until the water is clear.
Cook the nettles in a pot of salted, boiling water (about 4 1/4 cups) for 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain through a sieve, reserving the liquid. When the nettles have cooled enough to handle, chop them finely on a wooden surface.
Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the red onion until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low, then add the nettles along with a ladle of the reserved broth from boiling them.
Prepare a “dressing” by mixing together the flour and 3 tablespoons of the reserved nettle broth. Add the dressing to the nettles and let simmer for 8 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the mixture thickens—it should have the consistency of potato puree.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, finish with spring onion and garlic. Simmer for 1 more minute before removing from heat.
Serve hot with polenta, boiled potatoes, or fried eggs if you’re not a vegan. You can drink the leftover broth hot, with a pinch of salt, as a nettle tea.