Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Roasted Beet "Flowers" with Nettles and Mint Vinaigrette

Earlier this week I headed over to one of the larger grocery/deli places in town (Stockan Herkku, for those of you playing in Helsinki). With no planned meals in mind, I went a little overboard in the fresh produce aisle and came away with a motley assortment of interesting things: a nice-sized rosemary plant to plonk on the balcony once we're past the frost scares for good, blue kongo potatoes, cinnamon basil (proved to be Quite Nice on top of some salmon), and yellow and candy-striped beets. (What can I say? We all go a little crazy sometimes.)

Beet & Nettle Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

In the checkout line, I noticed the customer before me buying some nettle bread. It was too late to go back for some without causing severe irritation in my fellow shoppers, but it did remind me that our stamp-sized garden, besides patches of wood anemones and a few straggling tulips, also has some nettles pushing up amidst all the moss. Now, the Swedish food blogs I follow have been fairly bursting with wild greens lately (for whatever reason, this doesn't seem to be a Thing for Finnish foodies), and while botany is not my thing, I do feel confident in my ability to not poison myself with nettles.

Beet & Nettle Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Then, of course, I was completely stumped as to what to do with all these vegetables, until an Internet Friend, who shall go nameless, told me: Wilted Nettle Salad With Roasted Beets And Mint Vinaigrette. You should all have Internet Friends as great as mine, yeah? That is just sheer genius, right there. Unfortunately, I totally wimped out with the nettles at the last minute and mixed them with some ricotta instead. (In retrospect, I think they were better this way.) The presentation is totally stolen from Alanna's beet carpaccio, which I must try out sometime.

Beet & Nettle Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Now if I could figure out what to do with the blue potatoes. I understand they taste like... potatoes, which is bound to be something of a let-down, so it has to be good. I haven't made the microwave potato chips yet...

Roasted Beet Flowers with Nettles and Mint Vinaigrette
serves 2

2 medium beets
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups young nettle leaves
125 ml (or so) ricotta cheese
salt & pepper

1 bunch mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp fennel, ground
salt & pepper

The method for roasting the beets apes that of Alanna: wash the beets thoroughly, pat dry, then rub skins with some olive oil. Wrap tightly in foil and roast at 190°C (375°F) for about an hour. Let cool a bit, then rub between your hands to remove the skin. (It's pretty silly to keep the oven turned on for an hour for two beets, so I did a whole bunch at once. Look for more beety things later on in the week, I guess.) Slice thinly.

Wilt the nettles in a bit of simmering water, drain. Chop them finely and season with salt and pepper, then mix with the ricotta. (I should have squeezed the nettles to dry them out a bit more.)

Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Arrange the beet slices prettily on plates, sprinkle with dressing (you'll probably have some over), and spoon the nettle mixture in the middle.


Alanna said...

Oh so pretty! You're welcome to 'rob me blind' when everything looks this good. PS Have never seen nettles, let alone eaten them. Except hmm. Aren't they the things you get into and then itch like crazy?

Pille said...

Beautifully sunny presentation! I'd love to find some yellow beets.
I made a ground elder and white nettle pie few days ago (saving the post for this weekend's herb blogging event), as cooking with wild greens has recently been the thing to do in our house, too :)
Alanna - it depends on the nettles. Stinging nettles make you itch, but white nettles don't (I used white nettles for my pie)

Zarah Maria said...

Fantastic colors! And don't I know the going a little overboard and arriving home with just a liiiiittle more produce than anticipated? That's just one of the joys of seasons isn't it? (and one of the joys of doing the shopping, too?:-))

I've never seen nettles in the shops around here - will have to pick some myself, too. Oh yes, and blue potatoes - tastewise, fantastic - I think chips would be awesome in blue!

Homesick Texan said...

I had my first-ever taste of nettles the other night at a restaurant here in NY. They were splashed with a simple citrus vinaigrette and paired with duck pate. It was lovely and now I'm hooked! I can't wait to try them your way with beets and the mint vinaigrette.

joey said...

I have never had nettles nor yellow beets! I am so wanting to taste that right now! :)

Thanks for passing on the tip for roasting the beets (thanks Alanna too!)...will try that :)

Nässelblom & choklad said...

Of course I find this very interesting. Nettles are delicious...

deinin said...

Alanna, yes, these were the kind that sting when you handle them. Supposedly you could eat them raw if you chop them finely, but I'm not that brave.

Pille, this was my first time using yellow beets - I've used striped ones before. It was also my first time cooking (but not eating) nettles.

Zarah Maria, I've never seen fresh ones sold here, either, but dried you can get them in health food shops. (Not that I'd know what you'd do with dried nettles other than tea - maybe crumble it into bread doughs? Hmm...)

Homesick Texan - I've always had them in soups and pancakes before, never "bare," and the texture just seemed so rough somehow (even though the leaves I picked were very tender) that I couldn't face eating them as was.

Joey, the roasting works like a charm! Except you do need to watch the roasting time - it can take forever, and sometimes pricking one beet and finding it ready doesn't mean the rest of the batch is anywhere near tender.

Nässelblom & choklad - I'd never have guessed from your blog/user name... I'd only had nettles in soups and pancakes/crepes before now, so this was interesting.

Health News said...

This is a wonderful site. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone.

xlpharmacy said...

Sounds weird i have never taste a dish with flowers, but well i like to make new stuff every day, specially weekend thanks a lot for share it.