Friday, March 23, 2012

Stinging nettle risotto stuffed portobello mushroom and some science

One of my goals in this cooking adventure is to get a little more technical with my cooking and a little more fancy with my plating.  Furthermore, I like trying to pick up random produce at the farmers market and see what I can make with it.  Today's post is going to include all of the above.  I played with stinging nettles, sauces, and plating.  And honestly, I am so proud of myself!  It was not only gorgeous, but it was beyond delicious.  Today was a bit of a rough day, so when I got home I had to channel some energy somewhere, and I felt much better taking a step back and looking at this beautifully tasty dish.
Stinging nettles are a leafy green with a flavor like that of spinach.  But here is the catch, they are covered in needle like spikes that inject histamine into you when you touch them.  Ouch.  On the flip side, they are super healthy, and have traditionally been appreciated for its medicinal powers.  It has a really high protein content and can act as an anti-inflammatory agent... of course along with all of the other good things that come with being a green leafy vegetable (vitamin A, C, iron, calcium).
Raw stinging nettles... they look so unassuming!
So i'm going to use this to go off on a little bit of a science/philosophical tangent (this is something you can expect more of... so hold on).  Our world is rich with natural medicines.  I could start by quoting Hippocrates ("Let food be thy medicine...") or Edison ("The doctor of the future will no longer cure the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.")... but I would be here all day quoting people, because turns out that people have known this to be true for a long time.  It is only recently that we have become obsessed with removing ourselves from nature, and furthermore holding ourselves over nature.  Today, while listening to a professor speak, she was talking about how scientists often discover something, and think they are so brilliant... only to find out nature has been doing it for a long time.  We have this idea in our head that we can beat nature.  But is that really a noble cause?

I would much rather help prevent someone from getting sick in the first place, than treat them once they are sick (although that certainly isn't to say that I don't want to help people once they are sick).  Similarly, wouldn't you rather not get sick in the first place, than to get sick... but have a cure for it?  Most of the diseases that afflict the civilized world today are newcomers.  I am here to show you that it doesn't take any work at all really to put yourself in the "not getting sick" category.  Our environment has changed a lot in the last 10,000 years (a blink of an eye, really), but that isn't nearly enough time for us to change... so our bodies are at a bit of a discord with our modern environment.  Roughly 70% of what we currently eat would have never been available to humans before agriculture and the industrial revolution.  This includes dairy, refined sugars, processed oils, fatty meats, many cereals... not to mention the huge uptick in salt content.  Our bodies, and the microbes that live in our gut, literally don't know what to do with a lot of this stuff.  I think a good rule of thumb, is that if you can't recognize the food source of what you are eating... then maybe it isn't a great thing to put in your body.

Now, don't take this as a slam against science... it isn't that at all... it is more of a campaign for nature, and how I wish science and nature could work more closely.  To bring this discussion back to food, do yourself a favor and take joy in the bounty that nature has provided for us.  I hope that through this blog, I can provide you with simple and convenient ways to do so.  Even this next recipe, while it may look fancy and unapproachable... it was a simple Wednesday night dinner for me... and I hope it can be for you too!      


  • 1 portobello mushroom, stem and gills removed
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 bunch stinging nettles (I bought a bag at the farmers market, and dumped the whole bag in)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • water
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

To prepare the mushroom:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put portobello mushroom in a ziplock bag with rosemary, salt, pepper, and a dash of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Place portobello mushroom on baking sheet and put in oven for 10 minutes.

To prepare the risotto:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Dump stinging nettles into water (DO NOT TOUCH THEM).
  3. Blanch the nettles for about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Drain, remove stems, and give a rough chop.
  5. Heat the oil in a large pot.
  6. Add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant.
  7. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until it begins to become translucent.
  8. Add the white wine and stir until it has evaporated/been absorbed.
  9. Continue adding the stock, ladleful at a time, until the rice is cooked, but still has a bite.
    • Add the nettles when about half of the stock has been added.

To prepare the cashew cream:

  1. Place the cashews, rosemary, garlic, and a pinch of salt and then just enough water to cover the cashews in a blender and blend until it has a smooth and creamy consistency. 

To put the whole thing together:

  1. Turn oven down to 350.
  2. Fill the mushroom with as much risotto as will fit without spilling out.
  3. Place the whole thing back in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer stuffed mushroom to plate, and dot the cashew cream around it and drizzle some over the top.
  5. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment