Food of the Wild Soup
First, soak about ½ cup of arame in cool water for 10-15 minutes. If you do this first, by the time you finish the other steps, the arame should have plumped up to twice its original size, which means it’s ready.
While that’s happening, please heed the warnings and follow the directions for preparing nettles seen here.
After you’re done blanching the nettles, you’ll need to do the same for the fiddleheads (but a minute or two, once, is long enough).
Next, you need a dashi, which is a Japanese broth flavored with sea vegetable (usually kombu) and bonito flakes. If you don’t have these weird ingredients – I never do – use a vegetable stock and improvise with some dried nori (the seaweed they wrap sushi in) and some fish sauce (or fish stock). Put 4 cups of dashi/stock on the back burner, add some grated ginger if you like (I like) and a teaspoon of soy sauce, and just let it start simmering.
Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil (not olive oil, here. Safflower, grapeseed, peanut would work) in a skillet. Add 5 or 6 chopped shitake caps and 1 small leek, sliced (white part only). Add a pinch of salt and a dash of sake (optional).
Add the fiddleheads and nettles, season with salt and black pepper and stir to incorporate.
When the shitakes are slightly browned, add mixture to the dashi. Keep heat low. Add the arame.
Before serving, take about ¼ cup of the broth and add to 2-3 tablespoons of red miso to dissolve. Add the dissolved miso back to the pot, stir and serve.
I serve this with udon noodles, which I prepare separately to prevent them from sucking up all the liquid in the soup.
Here are some other articles and comments about nettles:
"The Common Stinging Nettle" by Euell Gibbons, writing for Vermont Weathervane
"Stinging nettles -- I cooked them and lived!" at Chowhound
"Stinging Nettles Need a New Name!" at OrganicMania
"Mini Specialist| Food Found: Stinging Nettles" by William Snyder, writing for WSJ
Check out these recipes:
Nettles pasta with fava beans, from No Recipes
Spring Tonic Nettles Soup, from Wild Food Ways