Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stinging Nettles and Closson Chase chard

Stinging nettle has a flavour similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium.  In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable.  Downfall, stinging nettle is poisonous until cooked, and can give you a stinging rash with hives that is painful for hours.  BUT, try not to let that scare you off.  It's worth it!  Just put some gloves on, always use tongs, and they loose all sting as soon as they are cooked.  They loose their sting after being frozen, dried, blanched or soaked in water.  
Pizza dough may seem difficult and time consuming, but it's not and it's always worth it in the end.  The more times you practice making dough the better it gets, so don't give up!  Have fun with it.
dough recipe - basic all purpose flour recipe
one cup of all purpose flour
two and 1/4 teaspoons of Fleischmann's pizza yeast
one and a half teaspoons of sugar
three quarters teaspoon of salt
two thirds of a cup of warm water, and three tablespoons of oil and mix until blended (one minute).
Bit by bit, add more flour while punching the dough until the dough becomes only slightly sticky, no more than one cup more.  There's no need to let it rise very long, but it never hurts.  We left it for half an hour, letting it double in size.

Stinging Nettle mixture recipe - adapted from Chad Robertson's book, Tartine Bread
four cups of stinging nettles.  Make sure you handle nettles with tongs
half cup of heavy cream
chili pepper flakes
two ounces of 1/4 inch cubed mozzarella cheese
two ounces of 1/4 inch cubed fontina cheese
salt and pepper
Toss the stinging nettle with cream, being very careful to use tongs.  Trust me, they sting!  Nick got a welt on his arm after a leaf jumped out of the bag.  Roll the dough out to desired thickness (go for very thin, the dough will still rise when cooked).  Distribute cheese over the dough, and mound the nettles on top.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  The mound can look quite large, but the nettles will cook down quite a bit when in the oven (or bbq), so be generous.  Our pizza cooked for fifteen minutes on a pizza stone on the bbq, which reached about 400 degrees.  An oven might get hotter, and cook the nettles quicker.  I pushed the nettles down halfway through cooking time, to make sure they stayed covered in cream and didn't burn.

The second pizza we made we covered the dough with grated cheese, added sliced tomatoes and local grilled asparagus, and voila.  Cooked it on the BBQ in the same way the stinging nettle pizza was cooked.  Side note: the asparagus farm in Prince Edward County is a must visit.  Greenridge Farms on Ridge Road.

Wine time!  We were in Prince Edward County this past weekend for Terroir, a local wine festival in Picton Ontario.  The County is somewhere you should visit this summer.  Wineries are quite a distance from each other, so plan a few days of exploring.  But there are many places that are not to miss.  Closson Chase is one of them.  The tasting room is in a beautiful restored old barn, with a gorgeous garden to sip a glass of wine amongst the vines.

2008 Closson Chase, South Clos Chardonnay VQA Prince Edward County $39.95
We selected this wine for a number of reasons. First off, it was International Chardonnay day on May 24th , so why not keep the Chard ball rocking & rolling for the rest of the week and weekend. Secondly, we are in Prince Edward County, Ontario, home to world-class chardonnay (and only 2.5 hours from Toronto.)
Closson Chase is a great producer that has helped spearhead the birth of the Prince Edward County wine industry along with Norm Hardie wines, a big favourite of ours. 
Since 1999, it has been creating distinctive wines that could rival the world’s finest.  Set in Hillier, Ontario, the estate is over 30 acres of limestone-rich soil with Burgundian-varietals of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir planted.
This Chard is unfiltered, but don’t let that cloudiness turn you away. Filtering wines can sometimes strip them of their original flavours; toasted apples, caramel, almonds, vanilla and butter on the nose. On the palate, it’s medium to full bodied with lots of fruit, minerals, oak, and a la-la-la-long persistent finish. This paired amazingly well with the stinging nettle pizza, complementing the earthy green flavours of the nettle, and the creme and parm base. 

bon appetit.
dinner is served.

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