Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fiddlehead Ferns

Imagine you're sitting on the floor of the primordial forest having survived another winter eating nothing but nuts, dried fruits and all things brown. Craving greens you spy the nascent frond of the ostrich fern, more commonly known as fiddlehead ferns. This springtime coiled germ makes me laugh for I think of some fossil dug up by an archeologist then I do my local farmer’s market for it looks like some ancient nautilus long ago forgotten. Their flavor is unique -- very green with an artichoke-like quality. Don’t be scared off buy them; play with them; and definitely eat them.

You should only eat the tightly curled fiddleheads and they should be of a hunter green hue. I place them in a large bowl of cold water, and gentle rub them to dislodge the browned leaves that are usually clinging to them. Then I blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, and refresh them. Now I am ready to cook them further. Perhaps sautéed into an omelet or battered and fried. They marry fabulously to sesame and soy sauce for a quick wok execution.

If Mother Nature is feeling indulgent you should find fiddlehead ferns for about 4 weeks – though blink your eye and they are gone.

Sautéed Fiddlehead Ferns - yields 8 servings
1-1/2 pounds fiddlehead ferns
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2-cup soy sauce
1-tablespoon sesame seeds
Black Pepper to taste

Wash the fiddlehead ferns very well. I tend to place them in a large bowl filled with cold water. I gently rub the ferns under the water to dislodge any browned leaves and debris. Then I skim the top of the water to remove the leaves that float to the top and rinse the ferns well under cold running water. Bring a couple of cups of water to the boil, and add the fiddleheads. Blanch for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Hold the cleaned/blanched fiddleheads in a colander.

Heat a 10 inch sauté pan to hot and then add the oil and the fiddlehead ferns. The fiddleheads will still have some water clinging to them and when placed in the oil it tends to spit and splatters. Though this water is important for it helps in the cooking of the fiddleheads. Sauté the fiddleheads for about five minutes moving them often. Pour in the soy sauce and continue to cook for a few minutes longer. Toss with the sesame seeds and black pepper to taste and serve hot.

Orecchiette Pasta with Fiddlehead Fern - yields 6 servings
1/2-pound orecchiette Pasta - uncooked
1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns - washed well and all brown leaves discarded
20 Kalamata olives - pitted and cut in half
1 bunch watercress - roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed to a paste
1/4-cup extra virgin olive
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring a 4 quart pot of water to the boil. Depending if you are using fresh or dried pasta determines the next step. If using fresh pasta add the fiddleheads first and cook for about 3 minutes before adding the pasta. Then cook together for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the pasta is done. If using dried pasta add the pasta first and cook for until about 5 to 6 minutes. Then add the fiddleheads for the last five minutes of cooking.

Drain in a colander. Promptly, while the pasta and fiddleheads are still warm toss with the olives, watercress, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, cayenne, salt and pepper to thoroughly incorporate. Serve warm.

1 comment:

mike said...

Mmm delsih! I just got some freshly picked fiddleheads this morning from the Mamaroneck farmers market. I was going to just sauté with garlic and oil but now I split into 2 batches to try with the sesame oil & soy. Maybe still could use a little garlic though.