Nettle season is pretty much over but the memory of these delicious little mouthfuls will be with me for a long time. I look forward to next Spring but in the meantime, will try them with spinach, which is plentiful in the garden right now. Or arugula. Or a bunch of fresh green herbs. Or kale!! It’s a whole new world.
I’ve wanted to try making gnocchi or gnudi for awhile, but it seemed like a lot of work and unfamiliar territory. I’m really glad I got over it. Gnudi (made with ricotta cheese) are supposed to be less work than gnocchi (made with potatoes). I wouldn’t know, but I do know that this is a particularly simple recipe to follow that yields incredible results.
Pan frying these little nuggets in brown butter elevates them to art. I used summer savory because we have a mound of it in the herb garden; it over-winters well in the ground and is one of the first herbs ready to use for spring. It tastes like a combination of thyme and sage, but has a little bite that mellows out once it’s cooked.
I have become so Pacific Northwest. Special prize goes to the first person who can identify at least six quintessential PNW things about this post.
A few years ago, Dan suggested I try stinging nettles, a plant that rears up each spring and stings and irritates the skin of unsuspecting hikers and people generally not paying close enough attention. He claimed it was delicious, sorta like spinach. Having fallen victim to some of his not-so-successful food
adventures follies in the past, the short answer was “Nope”. He persisted, foraged some young leaves, and dried them out to make tea later. I was still not convinced. Every spring since then, it’s been “nettles this” and “nettles that”. I know they’re loaded with iron and vitamin A, but my lizard brain had issues eating something that obviously doesn’t even want to be touched.
My resolve was finally broken on April Fools Day after we participated in the Eat. Run. Hope. 5k event for Fetal Hope, put on by Ethan Stowell and Eastside Memorial Fetal Medicine. I’ll admit that when I registered, I was driven to do this 5k mostly for the food. Canlis, Volunteer Park Cafe, The Walrus and the Carpenter, Terra Plata, SAM Taste, Revel, Skillet, Golden Beatle, Marche, Via Trubunali and of course Ethan Stowell and Co. were among the restaurants offering small bites after the run. When April 1st arrived it was cold, windy and threatening to rain. We were both in the thick of that terrible, lingering cold going around that killed most of my appetite and turned a “5k run” into a “5k walk as fast as possible without passing out”. I was bummed that I couldn’t enjoy the food as thoroughly as I normally would have, but I was also graced with an epiphany: The only thing that tasted really good at that point was a creamy nettle soup that someone (Revel? Golden Beatle? I wasn’t paying close enough attention in my post-walk haze) offered up. It was perfection in a little compostable cup with a compostable spoon, topped with a few fried shallots and a small chive flower. Creamy but not heavy, earthy yet green at the same time, simple, sublime. Continue reading
This is my favorite kind of meal to make because you start with incredibly fresh, just caught goodies. We found some beautiful razor clams at Twin Harbors beach near Westport, WA and I was pretty excited to get home and do something with them. Razor clams are especially fatty, so they’re perfect for frying. For best results, make your tartar sauce the day before. Continue reading
Few things in life are as simultaneously frustrating and gratifying than digging for clams for the first time. My very first experience was at Dosewallips State Park over the July 4th weekend in 2009, where we found buckets of Manila and Native clams and later cooked up a hedonistic storm back at the campsite. We spent the initial half hour or so slogging around, digging to find nothing, wondering if we were doing it right and worrying that scores of diggers before us had taken everything. We finally moved to the shoreline where the rocks met the sand and started searching among the rocks. A single clam appeared and we cheered with relief. Another appeared, then another.
The giddiness began to set in. All eyes were locked in ClamVision, easily spotting the clam shells nestled between and just under the surface of rocks and sand. The clams were suddenly everywhere and we frantically dug, nails caked with sand and buckets slowly filling. Visions of clam chowder, wine and lemons, and linguini with clam sauce danced around in my head. A collective energy swept over the five of us and we exclaimed things like “I can’t believe they’re all just here for the taking!” and “This is so primal!”. We even got a little picky, leaving the clams that were too big or too small. It was a very good day’s work:
Razor clams are a different beast. First, the winter recreational season in Washington is only open for two weekends every year. It’s pretty much guaranteed that conditions will be cold, wet and windy during your dig. You need to gear up. Second, it’s a bit harder to get at each clam since they quickly dig deeper and deeper into the sand as soon as they know you’re onto them–you’ll want a clam gun and possibly a shovel. Finally, because the tide is out relatively late and it gets dark so early this time of year (low tide was around 5:30pm on Saturday), there’s not much daylight for digging. It’s recommended that you start a couple hours before low tide so you can get some time in before dark. The preparation and work is worth it: Full size razor clams are big, averaging about 5 inches in length. The meat is sweet, buttery, and delicious–dungeness crabs, shore birds, and numerous species of fish agree with me here.
FYI, there’s a 15 razor clam limit per license and you have to keep each one you catch regardless of size–no throw-backs. A shellfish/seaweed license is only around $15 per year, so get two if you’re feeling ambitious and are taking a friend. You can find information about licensing, regulations, how to dig, and much more at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Continue reading