This recipe adaptation is a no-brainer. Simply replace the fresh spinach in your favourite Spanakopita recipe with fresh nettle leaves. You will instantly increase the nutrient value of your dish without changing its appearance or taste. Not only that, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve used a wild food in your diet.
Here’s my favourite Spanakopita recipe using fresh nettles from my back yard. This makes one 9 x 13″ pan or a whole mess of individual triangle pies . . . which are really good for appies, but they sure take a long time.
Grapeseed oil for sauteing onions and shallots
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
about 12 cups of fresh picked, soaked and drained nettle leaves, OR about 2 pounds (2 large bunches) fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, OR use a mixture of both
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese or 1% cottage cheese
2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/2 – 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
8 sheets phyllo dough (or more if you are making triangular hand pies)
1/4 cup melted butter
It’s difficult to estimate how much stinging nettles (or spinach) to use. Some recipes that use spinach call for 2 pounds, but fresh spinach is usually sold in bunches, in bags or in clamshell packs. Since the main component of the spinach or nettle leaves is water, they wilt down to almost nothing. If you chop and wilt one bunch of spinach, it usually yields about one cup. So in this recipe, I used about 12 handfuls of fresh nettle leaves (WEARING RUBBER GLOVES because sometimes not all the sting disappears with soaking. Trust me. But don’t worry that it will sting your throat when you eat it. Cooking will completely take care of that threat. Honest.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9 x 13″ baking pan.
Saute onion and shallot in hot oil till tender and lightly browned, then add green onions and garlic and saute for another few minutes.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, cheeses, parsley, dill and nutmeg.
In a separate large fry pan, wilt the freshly washed leaves by heating gently over low heat. There is no need to add water, as the water on the leaves will be plenty. USING GLOVES squeeze out the nettle leaves and put them in a mixing bowl.
Gently toss in the onions, shallots, and green onions. Add the egg and cheese mixture.
Lay one sheet of phyllo in your 9 x 13″ baking pan, making sure the remaining sheets are covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out as you work. Brush the sheet lightly with melted butter. Repeat with the remaining 3 sheets. Spread the filling evenly in the dish. If the sheets extend beyond the dish, just fold them over the top of the filling. Then add the remaining 4 sheets, one at a time, brushing each with melted butter. Brush the top with melted butter and tuck in any bits of phyllo to seal. Score the top layer with a sharp knife into serving size pieces. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 – 40 minutes. Cut into squares and serve hot. Feel smug knowing that you’ve reduced your carbon footprint by eating locally grown food.
Do you cook with stinging nettles? What have you made, or what ideas do you have for adapting recipes to substitute nettles?