A simple sauté is a delicious and quick way to deactivate the stinging hairs of this somewhat intimidating green. Herbaceous and slightly nutty, sautéed nettles can be added to soups, pizza dough rounds, simmered white beans, and scrambled eggs or paired with ricotta on crostini for an elegant hors d’oeuvre.
Special equipment: Heavy rubber dish gloves are helpful to quickly stem and clean the nettles. If you do not have gloves, tongs and scissors will do the trick.
What to buy: Stinging nettles can often be found at farmers’ markets and specialty food markets during the spring.
1 large shallot, sliced lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
Zest of 1 medium lemon
Juice of 1/2 medium lemon
Wearing thick rubber gloves, clean the nettles by soaking them several times under cold running water, then drain. (Do not touch raw nettles with your bare hands. If you do not have rubber gloves, use tongs to handle the nettles.) Separate the tender leaves from the tough stems, discarding the stems. (Use scissors for this process if you don’t have protective rubber gloves.)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the shallots have softened, about 2 minutes more.
Using tongs, add half of the nettles and the water to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the nettles have begun to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining nettles and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes more. (Add more water a tablespoon at a time if the pan becomes too dry.)
Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.