It was a beautiful morning along the Paulinskill Trail. The dawn sun was just cresting the trees and spilling light down the path towards where I was standing.
I was reminded of the small room in the center of Newgrange, the ancient building sitting along the Boyne river in Ireland. On the winters solstice the dawn light pierces through a small opening and shoots along a corridor to a circular room in the center. Standing in that center one fine winters day I glanced up to see the blue Irish sky through the opening and wondered, as many have before me, if there was more to this space than first imagined.
But I digress.
This particular morning I was intent on gathering a bunch of Stinging Nettles and found them in that mystical moment bathed in a combination of sunlight and dew drops. First I asked permission from the Nettles and, if you are Irish, from the wee people, then I cut gently at the base of the each nettle stem.
I had brought along a pair of gloves and clippers, respectful of the tiny stinging thorns that had given this mineral rich plant her name. These nettles were coming with me to Genesis Farm where I would be cooking lunch for a group of city dwellers. In my mind a bit of the wild and a dose of minerals would do them good; and so I envisioned a spring tart with a spelt pistachio crust layered with leeks and nettles than topped with a rich, creamy puree of seasoned tofu.
I imagined this slice of nature served alongside two salads, one a Wild Rice Asparagus salad and the other a gathering of wild spring greens, dandelion, garlic mustard, mint, garlic chives and tamed by the inclusion of mesclun mix and arugula. Too much wild in the belly might set off abandoned dancing round the fairy circles, while the business of the day would go unfinished. With my mind full of these stories I gathered my gifts from our Mother and headed out to prepare the meal.
Nettle Tofu Tart w/ Pistachio Crust
1 cup spelt flour
½ cup Pistachio nuts
¼ tsp. baking powder
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup unflavored soy milk
¼ tsp. sea salt
4 tbs. olive oil
2 cups leeks, chopped, white and light green parts only
4 packed cups Stinging Nettle leaves
1 pound firm tofu, pressed
2 tbsp. brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp. mellow barley miso
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tbs. arrowroot or kudzu powder (1 egg can be used in place of thickeners)
1 tsp. dried basil
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, grind the pistachios with a few tablespoons of the flour until finely ground.
3. Transfer to a medium bowl; add the remaining flour and baking powder and whisk to combine thoroughly.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, soy milk, and a pinch of salt.
5. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.
6. Press the crust into an oiled 9-inch tart pan. This can also be rolled out for a thinner crust.
7. Poke holes all over the crust with a fork. Bake the shell for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside.
1. Snip the Nettle leaves from the stems with a scissors, wearing gloves and careful not to handle with bare hands. Wash thoroughly and drain.
2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the washed nettle leaves. Allow to cook until just tender but still bright green (about 6 minutes). Remove to a colander and rinse with cool water.
3. When cool enough to handle chop the Nettles and set aside.
4. In a medium skillet heat the oil and sauté the leeks until tender. When done remove from heat and add the Nettles. Toss well to coat with oil.
5. Meanwhile, combine the tofu, remaining oil, vinegar, lemon, garlic, miso, and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth.
6. When smooth add the arrowroot and basil and puree to combine.
7. Spoon leek-nettle mixture along the bottom of the tart crust. Spread the tofu mixture over the nettles and spread evenly.
6. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until filling is firm and crust lightly browned.
7. When done remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing. Serve at room temperature.