Sunday, April 28, 2013

stinging nettle soup

I always remember visiting my great aunt Marjorie in the spring. After dinner, at twilight, she would send me out into the garden with shears and tell me to pick flowers to take home.

The grass would be wet with evening coming on, and I would find little white daffodils with orange faces and big tulips with pointed red petals. I'd bring them in and we'd wrap them in damp paper towel and plastic wrap, so I could transport them safely home.

Marjorie died just over a week ago.

We knew it was coming for a few weeks but, of course, knowing is different than attending the memorial service. Knowing is different than going out for a big dinner with your family and seeing that Marjorie isn't there.

But for those two days while I was there, Victoria was glorious with spring. The sky was a perfect blue of sunshine and everywhere I looked, there were fat pink globes of cherry blossoms and riots of yellow daffodils and red tulips in the garden and bluebells nodding in the grass along the road.

Knowing how she loved her garden, I think Marjorie would have been pleased that we were all there remembering her, chatting under blossoms and shading our eyes in the sun.

Now that I am back in dusty Edmonton where we have just one-inch shoots of tulips to promise spring, I think more about death and that she is gone. Grief is a funny thing, how it can sneak up on you when you think it's gone away.

After the memorial service, I went up to Courtenay with my dad for a few days.

It seemed like everywhere we went, people were talking about stinging nettles. They grow in ditches and in the bush and in all kinds of places where you might accidentally brush against them and get stung.

We found out that as long as you process the nettles in boiling water, they shed the toxin that stings.

So, an hour before we had to leave for the airport yesterday, Dad and I hurried down to the beach. We got out bags and put on gloves and I brought a little bounty of stinging nettle home.

Today, I made stinging nettle soup. It is a simple little soup, and was inspired by this lovely video.

It tastes like spring.

recipes from Marjorie: loganberry jelly and lemon loaf and butter tarts
one year ago: gouda and roasted red pepper dip
two years ago: a baked banana revelation
three years ago: chocolate cheesecake and tom yum pak

stinging nettle soup

note 1: you must wear rubber gloves when touching the nettles before they've been processed
note 2: you must boil the lentils and rinse them and throw away the boiling water

1 very small onion or two shallots, minced (equals about 1/4 c.)
2 tbsp. butter
2 c. packed nettles (top 4  6 leaves only), rinsed
2 c. chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
 5 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat and add the onions. Let them cook slowly in the butter until they're golden and translucent, about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a big pot of water to boil. Add the nettles and boil for about 3 minutes, until they're a bit greener and darker. Strain and rinse them. Chop the nettles on a board a few times to avoid having them clump on the immersion blender. (If you're using a real blender, you can skip the chopping.)

Add the chicken stock to the onion and butter pot. Add the cooked nettles. Blend until the nettles are very fine specks of green. Heat the soup up and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir the yogurt in and check your seasonings one more time before serving.

Monday, April 8, 2013

night circus mice

Look at these mice scurrying across the plate.

I think I might start a whole new category in the recipe index: something like Possibly Too Cute to Eat. Scott suggests they should be filed under Possibly Too Creepy to Eat.

I love looking at these little mice, but actually I love eating them even more. Under their milk chocolate fur, their innards are crispy peanut butter. These are sort of like the animal version of a peanut butter cup  but a lot better because these mice were born with real peanut butter and lovely, melty milk chocolate.

I made these mice for book club last week. We had just read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and we all brought circus-themed treats. I was intrigued when I read about the chocolate mice with licorice tails.

(I was also planning to attempt caramel corn but I couldn't find any naked popcorn to dress up with caramel  and my household is sadly lacking a popcorn popper. Well, it's a good thing, because four (!) friends came bearing bowls of caramel corn. We essentially had a caramel corn tasting party and discussed the book in between bites.)

The mice are a bit involved because you have to chill the innards before you can dip them in a thick coat of milk chocolate. But they're also pretty simple: mix the peanut butter with a bit of melted butter, icing sugar and crispy rice cereal and you can shape your little mouse bodies.

Then you lay out tails on the pan, dip your chilled mice in melted milk chocolate and attach them to the tails . . . Chill a bit and dab on white chocolate eyes.

Done. And cute to boot.

one year ago: paska for easter and zeppelin pancakes
two years ago: gumdrop cookies
three years ago: butterscotch pudding

chocolate mice with licorice tails
adapted from rock recipes

breeds 16  20 mice

1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1 c. icing or powdered sugar
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. crispy rice cereal (optional), crushed a bit*
about 40 sunflower seeds or sliced almond pieces for the ears
heaping 1 c. milk chocolate pieces
 2 tbsp. white chocolate pieces
licorice, cut into tails**

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. 

Mix the peanut butter, icing sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter and vanilla extract together. If it feels too dry and crumbly, add the other 2 tsp. of melted butter. However, you do want a somewhat crumbly "dough" to shape  but you need to be able to work with it. Stir in the crispy rice cereal.

Shape the mice so that they have a somewhat pointy nose and rounded bum. Set them on the prepared pan. Poke "ears" in with sunflower seeds or sliced almonds. Chill in the fridge for about 2 hours. 

In the top of a double-boiler or a bowl suspended over boiling water, melt the milk chocolate. Scrape it into a small deep bowl that's just big enough to roll a mouse around. (If your bowl is too wide and shallow, it will be tough to coat the mice and you'll need more chocolate.)

Place the licorice tails on the prepared pan where each mouse will go. Using two small spoons as tongs, dip each mouse in the chocolate and place each on a tail.

Chill for 1 hour until the chocolate has set. Melt the white chocolate and use a toothpick to dab on the eyes. Let set in the fridge. Eat!

*To crush, you can put them in a plastic bag and scrunch them 
**Licorice has wheat flour, so these are not gluten free if they have tails. But you can always genetically alter them to be tail-less and gluten-free.