To the seasonal allergy sufferer, many times relief cannot come soon enough. The itchy, watery eyes, runny nose and incessant sneezing make you feel as if you’re under serious attack. If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried countless remedies without success and have resigned yourself to the fact that you will just suffer for a good portion of spring, if not longer.
But, what if nature has another answer?
Native to Europe and now growing wild in regions of North America and Canada, stinging nettles are famed for their ability to create quite an impressive rash upon contact with the skin. The leaves and stems possess fine hairs that contain a host of chemicals which are released when they come in contact with the skin. But don’t let this scare you off. The stinging feature is easily squelched with heat, either a quick soak in boiling water or in a hot pan with some olive oil. With a little finesse, nettles are quite simple to prepare and full of health-boosting–and allergy busting–compounds.
Here’s a fun and simple recipe incorporating fresh, seasonal nettles (best tracked down at your farmers’ market).
Stinging Nettle and Ricotta Ravioli
For the filling
• ¾-1 pound fresh nettles
• 1 ½ cups fresh ricotta
• zest of two organic lemons
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 tablespoon dried sumac*
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• sea salt and pepper, to taste
For the ravioli
• 1 package fresh pasta sheets (wonton wrappers may also be used)
• 1 beaten egg
• ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
• freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
• extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
*Sumac is an aromatic, brick red spice that comes from the berries of a bush that grows wild in the Mediterranean. Fruity, tart, sour and astringent, many cultures use it in place of lemon. It can be found in most specialty grocers or online at www.wholespice.com.
Being extra careful not to touch the nettles, remove the leaves from the stems using tongs and/or gloves and immerse into a pot of boiling water. Let cook for a few minutes and drain off the water. Roughly chop the nettles and place in a medium bowl. Add ricotta, lemon zest, garlic, sumac, olive oil and sea salt and pepper and combine mixture thoroughly. Taste and re-season, if desired. Set aside.
Remove pasta sheets from the refrigerator and, on a clean work surface, lay out a piece of dough. With a spoon, place a dollop of the filling in equal distances on the pasta sheet, about one every 2-3 inches or so. Be sure to leave enough room around the filling to be able to effectively seal.
Brush some of the beaten egg around the filling reaching to the edges of the dough. Lay another pasta sheet on top of the first and, with a ravioli cutter, cut into individual raviolis, pressing the seams to seal completely. You can also a fork to seal the edges. Continue the process with another sheet of pasta.
Place finished ravioli on a parchment lined baking sheet covered with a damp kitchen towel while assembling remaining ravioli. When ready to cook, place gently into a large pot of boiling water. Ravioli should float to the surface when ready, about 3-5 minutes.
Gently remove from the water and drain well. When ready to serve, place in individual glass bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Top with grated cheese and toasted pine nuts and an additional dusting of sumac. Serve immediately + enjoy!