Friday, May 20, 2011

Recipes For Poets: Nettle Pesto and Thoughts on Versatility and Peacemaking

The last two days have been throat-clearing and pump-priming, but today I'm determined to get back to poetry writing, sweep finally through the clutter and inertia caused by our trip. It always seems to take me eight or nine days to get back to it, and I promise myself that I'm going to build and find ways to keep writing on the road.

Versatility and peacemaking: these are two features that are dear to me both in food creation and in poetry writing. Part of my 'pump priming' process in getting back into writing has been to ask myself, seriously: "What do I really love--to eat, to write, to do, to share as a message?" As a person who spent too many years in the anorexic universe, this is a very trenchant question (I don't know what I want): at times, the aporia it generates is astonishing. It's something I'd like to bring to light and to talk about more here in future, but versatility: the flexibility to fit with many environments and contexts--and peacemaking: filling a context that allows for agreement, of themes, people, flavors, viewpoints--are two qualities that came to mind that I aspire to.

So, without further pump-priming, a good recipe for this poet is one that admits of poetic license--variation of ingredients, proportions and specifics. It is delicious. Ideally, it speaks of the environment whence it comes. It can be used in a variety of ways and marries well with many flavors, brings parties together.
 This is nettle-parsley-basil pesto: fresh nettles, pioneers from the explosion of green that the 'Rite of Spring' produces here, married with more familiar, aromatic herbs (grown in pots indoors), with nuts, olive oil, garlic and lemon.

It took me barely seven minutes to make in the cuisinart, and can then be used as a base for many other quick and delicious recipes.

Note that I rarely measure when I create, so these ingredient amounts are approximate and reflect both poetic license and respect for a formal proportion that 'works.'

You need: a cuisinart (7-cup works well) with the S-blade fitted
1 cup nuts or seeds of choice (I used half pumpkin seeds: zinc powerhouse, and half walnut: represents the brain in the 'doctrine of signatures') (Pine nuts, mac nuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds or a combination would all be good too)
3 cups fresh nettles (I harvest with scissors into a picking basket: I seldom get stung. I chop them roughly with the scissors once they're picked)
Half a cup each basil and parsley
2 cloves garlic (or more, or less!)
Juice of half a lemon (use two tablespoons apple cider vinegar if you don't have lemons)
Good quality salt to taste
Quarter cup olive oil (or more)
Ascorbic acid/vitamin C

How-to: Start by grinding the nuts/seeds finely in the food processor. Add the garlic and greens, and spin until well broken down. Leave the motor running and slowly add the lemon juice, salt, ascorbic acid and olive oil through the hole in the lid. You may need to stop once or twice and scrape down the sides. Watch as you add the olive oil: at some point, the whole paste should become homogenized and integral.
Ascorbic acid: despite the lemon juice, I always add this to pestos and guacamoles because it's the only thing I've found to prevent browning so that the food is still beautiful later. I keep vitamin C powder, but you can just open one or two vitamin C capsules and pour the powder in.

So, now you have the pesto and seriously, it takes less than ten minutes. You can make it the centerpiece of a meal in various simple or more complex ways.
Simply dip carrots and jicama in it, or crackers if you like (and have them handy).
Use it to stuff bell peppers, or layer with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with poppy seeds
Use it to dress your preferred spaghetti, whether that's kelp noodles, durum wheat pasta, rice noodles or spiralized zucchini.
Thin it with more lemon juice and some water to make a delicious dressing for greens and tomatoes.

This is what I did for Phil last night: not gluten free, not vegan, but good for Phil and took fifteen minutes:
A cup of pasta takes about eight minutes to cook al dente.
Meanwhile, I sauteed half an onion and a cup of chopped clams
 ...then added two cloves of garlic, half a cup of pesto and a little water.
Drained and salted the pasta, stirred in the clam-pesto mix, garnished with sliced tomato.
 I could imagine an even more delicious version with kelp noodles and mushrooms instead of pasta and clams...

Meanwhile, my own dinner was squarely within my current tweak: not a mono diet, but maybe a 'tetra diet.' More on that in my next post!
Have you had nettle pesto before? If you don't have nettles where you are, you can make this with any other herbs, but if you can, do try nettle pesto: it's so earthy and delicious. I haven't seen anyone that doesn't like it.