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Well-Fed Vegetarian

A Delicious Reason to Brave Nettles

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In Well-Fed Vegetarian, chefs spotlight recipes that are worth forgoing meat.

Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles

© Fredrika Stjärne

Great restaurants rarely have DJs, but Napa chefs Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde hired one to play a four-hour set this past Saturday for the two-year anniversary of their popular Cal-Italian spot, Oenotri. Next up in July: The duo aims to introduce two house-brewed ales that will pair fantastically with their signature pizzas, like this one with garlic cream and nettles. The wild plant grows abundantly near the restaurant most of the year, and the chefs can’t get enough. “The majority of people look at nettles as a weed,” says Rodde, “but they’re actually really tasty and flavorful.”

Even though the greens have great flavor and are harmless when cooked, most chefs avoid them because of small, stinging hairs that make washing and handling the plant a bit troublesome. Rodde suggests wearing gloves while washing the plant, and using tongs for those cooking them for the first time. “If you’re afraid of them,” says Di Fede, “they’ll hurt you. If you’re not afraid of them, they’ll leave you alone. As long as you don’t have fear of the nettle, it will never sting you.”

For the pizza, the duo blanches the nettles then cooks them down in a pot with oil and salt. If you’re unable to find nettles, Di Fede and Rodde suggest substituting rapini, which has a similar nutty flavor.

A bright, full-bodied Müller-Thurgau from northern Italy pairs well with this white pizza. For a beer option, Rodde suggests a sour Belgian-brewed saison.

See Di Fede and Rodde's Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles recipe

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