Home for the weekend and almost no travel ahead of me for the next 30 days – just a day trip here and there. It’s an awesome feeling. I will be sleeping in my own bed, cooking in my own kitchen, running along the isar, playing with the cats, every single day through the month of July. Today, after a month of no significant interesting cooking/recipes because I was on the road most of May/June (or it felt like it), I got a chance to really splurge and spend most of the day in the kitchen, quietly preparing dinner, almost meditating as I pressed and folded, pressed and folded, little Italian-shaped “orcchiette” – which means “little ear” in Italian.
I’d seen this recipe a month or two back, and though it is more of a late spring recipe, because stinging nettles are rather more of a spring ingredient, I didn’t have a chance to tackle it until today. And there are still plenty of nettles around my neighborhood, you just have to take care and look for younger ones, preferably those that haven’t yet flowered. I loaded up the bike basket with a bag, rubber gloves, and scissors and went in search of the weeds. It didn’t take long to find some.
There they are, to the right of the bike, mixed in with all kinds of other stuff, but easy enough to spot, their nasty little venomous needles out and ready to bite.
You only cut the top tender leaves off, which I did. Cups of them – perhaps seven or eight – and then I brought them home, to soak in cold water. I wear the gloves all the way through the moment I get them in the pan. I was reminded during the collection, that even a gentle swish of an arm against a leaf is enough to leave a burn.
But washed and prepped, they look innocuous enough. Sauteed with garlic and onion and then pureed, they are a bit like spinach, but with a wild tang to them. Supposedly quite healthy as well, and I always like gathering things that end up in my dinner.
So on to the pasta. That was a nice mix of standard semolina and in my case, buckwheat, as I didn’t have any rye and couldn’t find it at the store yesterday. Mixed with water, the dough rests for an hour or so before you roll it out and begin the process of creating each of the little “ears.” I had no idea it would take so long, but I did a 600 gram recipe, meaning about 210 or 220 of those ears…each carefully hand rolled, hand pressed, hand folded. It was sort of relaxing ultimately, especially if you can just sit there and watch Netflix for two hours while you do it.
Weigh out 100 grams, roll it into a log, cut the log into 30-35 pieces.
Roll each into a little ball. And then press them into shape – a little concave hollow and then press the edges back…to look like an ear. Repeat with the next 100 grams, taking care to always keep the rest of the pasta well covered in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out as you roll.
There is probably a shortcut, I just haven’t learned it yet.
And let them dry out on a cloth or some baking sheets for a few hours.
I’ll put the uneaten ones in the freezer and cook them another time. But for tonight, the rest of the recipe was quite easy.
Chop herbs (mint, dill, chives) and crumble some feta. Zest a lemon. Place it all in the bowl where the dish comes together.
While you boil the pasta, saute some oyster mushrooms, throw in some fresh peas, dollop the nettle pesto you’ve made into the mix, stir in some pasta water, and finally mix it all together.
I love how the little ears gently cradle the peas – a perfect bite of sauce in each little ear. (Cute, no!!?!).
And each bite was lovely, a medley of flavors, each bite a little different: fresh herbs, the salty cheese, the sweet peas, the gentle buckwheat flavor of the dough in the background.
And to finish off our meal, I’d made a simple upside-down cherry and cornmeal cake. A coffee cake, as it turned out, served with a spoonful of petit suisse cheese mixed with a bit of honey.
Happy Sunday Supper.
After that, Monday doesn’t feel so bad, does it?