From the garden and kitchen this spring we have two new favorite concoctions I have to share with you. The first, rhubarb oatmeal, we have eaten every morning for the past 10 days. It is so simple, and it is a pleasure to yield to cries of “Can we PLEASE have rhubarb oatmeal?!”
We all love rhubarb and are desperate in the spring for more local produce, but beyond desserts and with a husband who nixed chutney long ago, I was at a loss as to how to keep the rhubarb coming into the kitchen. I now keep a supply of rhubarb stalks in the fridge in a reusable cotton bag. I cut up two or three stalks into one-inch pieces and throw them in with water and oats in a saucepan.
What We’re Picking
Make your oatmeal however you usually do — everyone seems to have their own way. Bring to a boil and then turn down to low, giving it a stir. Cook until the rhubarb is completely soft. It doesn’t take long, maybe 10 minutes. Drizzle with maple syrup, sprinkle with cinnamon and walnuts or almonds and add a dollop of yogurt and there you go. Yum!
Second is Scandinavian nettle soup. My husband and I have talked about eating nettles just about every spring for the past five years, but it has always seemed like too much of a pain — there is a reason they call them “stinging” nettles. It is not that appealing to eat something that makes your skin blister and burn as though you just touched a hot stove. But this year we went for it. Donning garden gloves and using tongs, we managed to steam, serve and eat them unscathed and then unanimously agreed they were not worth trying again. Hairy would be the most descriptive word.
But I was not willing to give up (food that is free and packed with nutrients I can ignore for only so long). Thinking if I eliminated the texture component they still might be good, I tried a creamy Scandinavian nettle soup. It was delicious — maybe not something you would make weekly, but definitely a treat to look forward to each spring.
Look for nettles in the sunny, “wild” areas of your yard or a neighbor’s property (with permission, of course). They favor our fence line, growing up through a tangle of hops vines and in our asparagus bed, apparently trying to one-up our other favorite spring vegetable.
10 cups washed nettle leaves, stems and all
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped chives
3 Tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups cream, half-and-half or milk
yogurt for garnish
Bring a large pot of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Blanch the nettles for 30 seconds and then drain. Set aside.
In same pot, sauté the onions, garlic and chives in the butter over medium heat, until the onions are soft.
Add the blanched nettles, chicken stock, thyme and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low and simmer until tender, about 15 min.
Add the cream or milk and puree in a blender or food processor.
Return to soup pot and heat gently until warm.
About the author: Sarah Kaeck is a stay-at-home mother of three in New Haven. She and her husband keep a large vegetable garden, raise chickens and, new this year, lambs, feeding their family for a good part of the year. Sarah sews vintage-style aprons that you can find at the Middlebury Farmers Market and at www.yellowbirdaprons.com. She blogs at www.gardenprattles.com.