A sauce for those rainy days of early spring, when the show-stoppers like asparagus and peas aren’t quite ready yet and you’re wondering how to approach the gradient of bitter greens at the farmer’s market. Count it as the vegetable in your meal or use it to amplify the deliciousness of other simply prepared vegetables. I’ll be making this weekly until the sun comes out and the peas pop off!
Nettle & Dandelion Salsa Verde
Good olive oil, about 1½ cups
2-3 cloves garlic
1 shallot, minced
1 bunch green garlic, roots trimmed, thinly sliced
1 bunch dandelion greens, roughly torn or cut down into 3”-4” pieces
8 oz stinging nettles
2 lemons, zested and juiced
¼ cup sherry vinegar
Salt, to taste
Macerate minced shallots in the lemon juice + zest.
Heat 4-6 quarts of water in a stockpot and add salt until it tastes like ocean water. Prepare an ice bath: fill a metal or ceramic bowl with ice and cover with cold water.
You’ll want to wear gloves for this next step! Carefully pick the nettles from their stems and discard the stems. When your salty water is boiling, add the picked nettles to the pot and stir. After 15-20 seconds, strain the water and immediately place the blanched nettles into the prepared ice bath. Nettles should be brilliant green and the stinging barbs should be completely softened.
Meanwhile, in a saute pan on medium heat, sweat the green garlic in a glug of olive oil with a pinch of salt for 3-5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened and fragrant. Try not to let brown. Turn the burner up high, then add the torn dandelion greens and saute 2-3 minutes, until wilted. Season to taste. Remove from heat and let cool.
Remove the nettles from the ice bath and, using your hands, squeeze out all the excess water. Return the nettles to your cutting board and run a knife through them a few times.
Return the cooled green garlic & dandelion to your cutting board and run a knife through them a few times.
In the bowl of a food processor, add the raw garlic and pulse until finely chopped.
Then add the nettles, green garlic and dandelion greens and macerated shallot and lemon juice. Cover with olive oil. Pulse three to four times, for two seconds at a time. You should have a sauce that’s not completely smooth, but well-incorporated and pourable. If it’s more like a thick paste, add more olive oil. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can do all the knifework by hand and compose the sauce in a bowl.)
Season with the sherry vinegar and salt to taste. Add an extra squeeze of lemon if you like.
That’s it! You can eat this warm or chilled. I created this recipe to accompany a dish of halibut poached gently in mushroom dashi and served over brown rice, but it would be delicious on just about anything- a beautiful steak, pan-roasted chicken, a hot sticky sweet potato or drizzled over hummus… best fresh, but will keep in the fridge about a week.