Friday, June 3, 2011

Find It Now: Fiddlehead Ferns

How can you not smile when you see fiddlehead ferns?  They look like something straight out of Dr. Seuss and add a dash of whimsy to any dish.  Personally, I like to pretend they are delicious little caterpillars crawling through my pasta.

Fiddleheads are similar in taste and texture to asparagus, though a bit grassier.  Keep your eyes open for them, as they are only available in spring.  When shopping for fiddleheads, get the freshest you can find.  Avoid those that look squished or browned.  They should be bright green and pretty tightly curled.

With such a special item, I like to keep the preparation simple.  Sauteed with mushrooms and onions and served over pearl couscous, this meal lets the fiddleheads be the star.

Ingredients (for one generous serving, easily multiplied for more):
- 1 dozen fiddleheads
- 1 c. sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1/2 c. chopped yellow onion
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 c. white wine
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 c. pearl couscous
- 3/4 c. water
- salt and pepper to taste

- Bring a small pot of water to boil.
- Wash and trim the ends off of the fiddleheads.
- Blanch the fiddleheads in the boiling water for about 2 minutes.  Drain and cool.
- Combine the lemon zest, couscous, water, and a dash of salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the water is absorbed, about five minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Add the butter to a skillet with the mushroom to brown over medium heat.
- After five minutes, add the onion and dash of salt and pepper.
- When the onions are translucent and tender, add the wine and lemon juice.
- After the immediate sizzle of the liquids calms, add the blanched fiddleheads.  Toss to coat and taste for seasoning.
-  Plate the couscous and pour the vegetables and all juices over it.  Optionally top with a bit of finely grated pecorino.


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