Spring nettle crepes are a good example of the sort of seasonal cuisine I used to serve at Lucias restaurant for brunch during spring. The basic idea is this: make some green crepes with common stinging nettles in the batter, fill them with more cooked nettles, a few ramp leaves, goat cheese or ricotta, fold them into packets or roll them up, bake, and serve with MORE nettles and a fresh green salad. It’s spring on a plate.
Using crepes as pasta
The technical term for these could be a couple different things, in French they could just be crepes d’ortie, in Italian cuisine, where crepes are sometimes used in place of pasta, you could call them crespelle, or even cannelloni.
Another thing to mention is the way that they are folded. Crespelle to me just means a crepe filled with something, and those I typically fold as you see here into an attractive packet. If I call them cannelloni, I will roll them into a tube, after which they can be napped with bechamel sauce and baked in a hot oven, or just simple butter and a sprinkle of parmesan, as I have pictured here.
Wild spring greens salad
To make the dish as green as possible (and to make sure I eat lots of plants) I serve this with steamed nettles on the side to reinforce the nettle theme, as well as a salad of fresh wild spring greens: watercress, flowering cutleaf toothwort, and spring beauty, along with a few leaves of fresh wild mint.
Think of the salad as a suggestion-if you don’t have access to those, you can just use some arugula, or skip it, and it will still be good, but don’t skip the steamed nettles.
Spring Nettle Crepes
- 1 Recipe nettles crepes see recipe
- 4 oz fresh young nettles
- 1 oz fresh ramp leaves optional
- 8 oz soft goat chevre or a combination of ricotta and goat cheese, or ricotta
- 2 oz parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg, beaten
- A few scrapes of fresh nutmeg to taste
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 6 oz fresh nettles
- 2 oz fresh wild salad greens* see note optional
- 3-4 large leaves of fresh mint optional
Make the filling
- Steam or blanch the nettles and ramp leaves if using for 2 minutes, then remove, cool naturally spread out on a tray, squeeze dry, and chop medium-fine.
- Mix the cooled nettles with the remaining filling ingredients, but only HALF of the beaten egg (you can double the recipe and use a whole one) seasoning with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. From here the filling can be made ahead of time up to 48 hours.
Filling the crepes
- Lay each crepe out browned side-down, spread with a scant ¼ cup of the filling nearly to the edge, then fold in half and gently fold in half again. If you got a little happy with the filling and the crack at the bottom it’s ok, you’re not prepping for restaurant service here.
- Lay the crepes out on a cookie sheet lined with lightly greased parchment, sprinkle with parmesan, dot each with 1/2 tablespoon butter and bake at 375 F for 15 minutes or until the crepes are hot throughout and gently puffed.
Fresh nettle garnish
- Meanwhile, steam the fresh nettles for 5 minutes or until tender. If your nettles are older, chop them a bit beforehand.
- Arrange a nettle crepe on the middle of a preheated dinner plate, top with a small serving of the steamed nettles that you’ve blotted dry on a towel so as not to make the plate watery, sprinkle the nettles with a pinch of salt.
- Toss the fresh greens with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste, along with the wild mint, if using.
- Sauteed mushrooms make a nice addition if you have some.
I used a combination of toothwort, spring beauty and watercress, trout lily, if you’re not sensitive to it, would also be a good addition. If you don’t have access to these, a little fresh arugula would be fine, or just skip them.
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup water
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 oz nettles
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Cooking oil a small amount as needed for greasing the pan
- Blanch or steam the nettles for 60 seconds or until just wilted, then remove and cool on a towel, squeeze dry and chop coarsely.
- Add the nettles and the remaining ingredients to a blender and puree until very smooth. Allow the mixture to rest for 30 minutes before cooking.
- Pour ¼ cups of the mixture into very hot, lightly greased 8 inch non-stick pans and cook, swirling the pan around to make thin cakes.
- When one side is done and light golden, flip the crepes and cook for literally a second to “kiss” the other side, then transfer to a tray, platter or other surface to cool.
- Repeat the process with the remaining batter, stacking the crepes on top of each other when they’re finished.
- When all the crepes are cooked, wrap the stack of crepes in cling film to keep them pliable with the residual steam, then refrigerate. From here the crepes can be made ahead of time up to 48 hours.