Growing up, my parents had a patch of stinging nettles in a corner of the backyard. They grew it to fertilize our organic vegetable garden and also for its medicinal properties. I remember my mom making tinctures from it and drying the leaves for herbal tea. One summer day, my sister brought me to the patch and dared me to touch the leaves. Wanting to prove my bravery, I felt one of the leaves between my thumb and my index finger. I learned two lessons that day: Don’t trust Geneviève, and don’t touch the nettles with bare hands!
Stinging nettle is a prolific, somewhat invasive perennial plant. It is naturally high in iron and vitamins A and C. It is best harvested when the leaves are young, in the spring or early summer. Cooking the leaves neutralizes the tiny hairs that cause the stinging, and the leaves can be eaten like any other greens. This recipe for stinging nettle and ricotta rice cakes comes together quickly using leftover cooked rice. If you do not have nettles, you can substitute spinach.
Stinging Nettle & Ricotta Rice Cakes
- 1 large bunch fresh stinging nettles
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 small red onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint, minced
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Lemon juice, for serving
Using kitchen tongs, wash the stinging nettles in a colander under running water. Place them in a steam basket and steam for 10 minutes. They are now safe to handle with bare hands.
Remove the tougher stems from the nettles and reserve the leaves. Pat them dry on a kitchen towel and roughly chop them. We are looking for 1 cup cooked nettle leaves.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the cakes (cooked brown rice, almond flour, ricotta cheese, cooked nettles, eggs, red onion, mint, lemon zest, salt and pepper). Stir well to combine.
Preheat a cast iron pan on the stove at medium heat. Using a 1/3-cup measuring scoop, form 8 cakes with the rice mixture.
Fry the cakes in a little butter or (neutral-tasting) coconut oil for a couple of minutes each side, until they are nice and golden.
Serve the cakes on a bed of greens, with the side dish of your choice and a good squeeze of lemon juice. I served mines with steamed asparagus and homemade sauerkraut.
Recipe serves 4 (at 2 cakes per serving).