I am a complete scrounge when it comes to food and nowhere is this more evident than at work, where I have built a number of relationships that result in me getting food. And not just any food. I want the special stuff. The stuff that people hunt, grow, fish or find. And fortunately for me, people that hunt, grow, fish and find food are typically excited to share it with others because it means so much to them, and the food is tangible, no, – better, edible proof that they actually do what they purport to love. And I am more than happy to hear the stories of the provenance of the foods being passed to me. To hear of the bee stings acquired en route to the honey collection, the forest floor full of morels the spring after a fall burn, the politics of the pecking order of the hens laying pastel eggs. I love the people, I love that they share their treasure with me, and like so many others these days, I love having a story behind the food on the plate.
So after a week in which I scrounged morels, venison, and backyard eggs from a number of coworkers, I knew it was time to do some food-finding of my own. In the greenspace across the street, along the creek, I had noticed clumps of stinging nettles, Urtica dioica. In the past I had cooked nettles, boiling them, “plunging” them into an ice-bath (per Bittman), and then using to make a pesto of sorts, sans the pine nuts. It has been a while since I had done so and I never had collected the nettles myself so after lunch, Annabel and I went across the street on a “nature hunt” and she watched me carefully snip the tops of the plants, dropping into a paper bag below. She was fascinated by the whole thing and then had a blast playing (“exploring” we called it) with the soft greens in the ice-bath.
Tonight, this will be served on seared trout, with green beans sauteed with ramps and a rice pilaf. Paired with New Glarus Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale. Though I bought the trout this morning at the co-op, it is easy to imagine pulling a trout from Black Earth Creek then collecting nettles from the banks and ramps from an adjacent forest. As they say, if it grows together, it goes together. If this turns out as well as I hope, I’ll have to collect another bag of nettles and prepare the sauce to share with those who have shared with me.