sometimes, it's just too much (and, a recipe for nettle lasagna. sort of.)

last night, i found myself at this table, alongside sixty of the most righteous farmers, artists, writers, cooks, surfers and thinkers i have the pleasure to know.

many of my favorite people were seated beside me, eating crab with chili butter and chicories with persimmon, sausages with applesauce and satsumas and brownies.  it was a ridiculously perfect dinner, with much talk of wendell berry, the protein structure of egg whites, and the true meaning of craftsmanship.  it was one of those nights where there are so many wonderful people to see and talk to that there's just no way to get to everyone.  

charlie gave a toast.  a version of the same toast he always gives, including something along the lines of, "as a child, never in my wildest dreams could i have imagined that my life would yield days and nights like this.  i am happier than i've ever been, and have all of you to thank for it."

i came home and smiled myself to sleep.

washing nettles

today, i woke up and spent the entire day making lasagna, one of my favorite things to cook.  i shared one pan with grace, a farmer i befriended yesterday.  she came over today and spent the day cooking with me.

brilliant green

i had one pan for dinner with a friend and his family.

and i sent one pan over to be eaten by three of the people i love and respect most in this world, with their families and friends.

apart, together we ate the same thing.

i am happier than i have ever been, and i have all of you to thank for it.

the healthfulness was hardly betrayed by the deliciousness

nettle pasta.  i could go on for days about nettle pasta.

in january of 2003, i was living in piemonte, desperate to find a way out of a tough situation. chris and janet came and whisked me away to tuscany for a bit.  i raved about

da delfina

to them, having recently been there with jonas and melissa, so we made a reservation for lunch on the last sunday before they were to close for winter break.

obviously, we got lost on the way there.  driving on italian


without doing so is pretty much impossible.  especially when

lastra a signa



is involved.  ack--the most confusing exits ever!

we were hours late for our reservation.

suffice it to say they were not happy to see us when we finally did arrive; they were more than ready to leave for vacation.

but we persevered, and ordered quickly.  two of us misunderstood the menu and ordered pasta with nettles and spinach, thinking we'd get tagliatelle with sauteed greens.

instead, we got the most heavenly plates of pasta i've ever had: fragrant, nutty tagliatelle flavored with


, or nettles, tossed casually with a handful of wilted spinach, olive oil, and parmesan.

every nettle pasta i have had or made since has paled in comparison to that perfectly precarious memory.

until today.

i had two farm boxes of nettles, about 4# after i picked through them.  it was plenty, and i committed to making the pasta with raw, instead of my typically cooked, greens.

so i picked and washed the nettles, drained and chopped them finely, and pureed them with a small amount of eggs and yolks to get a deeply verdant mixture which i then folded into the flour.

for 4 cups of pasta, which yielded plenty of sheets for all of the pans i described above, with more to spare, i used 2 eggs, 6 yolks, and about a pound of nettles.

i rolled the pasta fairly thin, then blanched it, dabbed it dry, and brushed it with olive oil to keep it from sticking to itself.

the rest of the greens i sauteed, with garlic and onions, and used in the filling.  i alternated greens with a thick bechamel, some bellwether ricotta seasoned with salt, good oil, parmesan, and thyme, and a scant amount of mozzarella.

layer, layer, salt, cover, bake.  yum.

remind me to detail my lasagna manifesto here for you all sometime.  in the meantime, though, trust me: your instincts are enough.  and if you can't find nettles, (bloomsdale) spinach is equally delicious.