A Walk on the Wild Side with Crescent Dragonwagon, Nettle Pesto and a Blog Giveaway

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May 6, 2010 at 11:12 am

Melissa Graham

I just returned from Portland, Twitter hashtag PDX. There for the annual conference of IACP (short for International Association of Culinary Professionals), over the course of a week long stay, I listened to fascinating discussions, ate and drank like a queen, and lurked among the culinary glitterati.

During it, I learned many things, among them:

· Ruth Reichl is indeed as impressive in person as she portrays herself in books. (We had the pleasure of sitting two seats down from her in the teensy-weensy Le Pigeon).
· That Michael Ruhlman is quite the fiery one, talking about sex and calling "bull shit" on Karen Page during a panel discussion.
· After seeing the trailer park neighborhoods of food trucks offering inexpensive, high quality foods of almost every ethnicity, Chicago desperately needs to change its regulation of mobile food operations.

Of the many lessons, however, it was the one that I hadn’t given much thought to at the time that stuck with me most.

But first, some background.

This post is the first in a series of posts entitled, The Marvelous Mothers of May, in which I plan to celebrate the impact certain women have had on my life. Some of these women are mothers, some have simply been spiritual mothers to me. And of course, one of them is my own mother. I was inspired to write this by yet a third writer, New York Times food reporter, Kim Severson, whose book: Spoonfed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life is a wonderful read. Thor has pulled a number out of this T-ball hat between 1 and 40, the poster whose post in this series corresponds with that number will win my gently used copy of Spoonfed. The winner will be announced next Wednesday. To enter the giveaway or to read the remainder of this post, click here.

In the meantime, check out this recipe. I'll be making Spring Green Pesto next week at the Downtown Farmstand, Thursday May 13 from 12-2pm.

Stinging Nettle Pesto
Makes approximately 2 cups

I couldn’t think of a better recipe to include in a post about a famous vegetarian who inspired me to take a risk. Especially when I took a considerable risk and when making and eating it. Usually, nettles need to be cooked to neutralize their stinging quality before they are handled or eaten. I did not do this, but instead trusted the whirring of my food processor blade would do it for me. The risk’s reward was the pesto’s grassy, nutty flavor – spring in a mouthful.

1 bunch nettles, rinsed stems removed carefully holding them with tongs
½ cup toasted and skinned hazelnuts (appropriately I used ones bought during my trip to the Willamette Valley)
1 bunch of green garlic, rinsed and trimmed
Approximately ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil (I eyeballed this, using only as much as needed to get the mixture to pesto consistency)
3 tablespoon freshly grated pecorino (Prairie Fruits Farm makes a delicious one)
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. The pesto is terrific on warm pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese.