I love winter but I do get tired of buying jetlagged vegetables. The first greens to poke up here in the Northeast see my smiling face and scissors right above them. The best part of these potatoes was hunting for the nettles with my seven year old son, who was pretty happy to be bale to tell me where the best patch was this year. Just make sure your source is well off the road, you pick carefully (wear gloves or clip directly into a basket) and wash them about three more times than you think is necessary. They love to hide grit. Nettles have a wonderful savory flavor unlike any other green, but if you don't have access to any you could use spinach here and get the same lively green color. —a raisin + a porpoise
Test Kitchen Notes
You know you have a winning dish when you read this recipe. The combination of the spring greens is not only very tasty but also healthful, a real Health Elixir. I was lucky to find most of the alliums and only substitute ramps with a combination of green garlic and garlic chives. To show the versatility of the green elixir I incorporated it into three more dishes (green rice, green polenta and also mixed into my homemade fresh ricotta, which was delicious on a crostini), and there are still many more possibilities for using the green elixir. This recipe definitely deserves the community pick. —Kukla
The green elixir
ramps, or substitute a clove of garlic and some green onions
nettles, tender tops only
generous, of baby spinach leaves
The potato base, and finishing
russet potatoes (3-4 large), peeled and chunked
sour cream, or use Greek yogurt or buttermilk for a less sinful version
Wash the nettles well, very very well, and carefully. If you do get stung, remember they are an ancient cure for joint pain! Wash the spinach separately.
Clean the ramps, removing the slippery outer membrane. Chop the bulb ends, and then the greens, reserving them separately.
Bring a two quart saucepan of water to the boil and salt it well. Drop in the nettles and cook for a minute, then drop in the spinach and stir once, to wilt them, and then use a slotted spoon to pull all the leaves out into a waiting colander, reserving the cooking water in the pot. Rinse under cold water to cool and refresh. Coarsely chop and reserve.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet and sauté the ramp bulbs until they soften, a few minutes. Add the ramp greens and stir a few times, then add the blanched greens. You may need a tablespoon or two of water to produce a mixture that you can even out in the pan. Lower the heat and let it simmer a few minutes, until everything is nicely combined, totally tender and still bright green. Scrape into a food processor and pulse until you have a thick purée. It does not need to be totally smooth.
The potato base, and finishing
Cook the potatoes in the nettle-cooking water until fork-tender. Drain (you can make some rocking bread with that potato water, if you roll that way) and let the potatoes rest, covered, in the hot pan a moment. Mash them thoroughly with the butter and sour cream, then add the reserved green and the grated cheese and mix well. If you like to hit your mashed potatoes with an electric beater, now's the time. I am far too lazy for that. Taste for salt and pepper. Enjoy!