This TreeHugger was thrilled to find fiddlehead ferns in the market this week. For me fiddleheads are the harbinger of spring eating, the signal that at last we can look forward to baby greens, asparagus, strawberries still warm from the sun, dining al fresco and all the things we love about spring and summer cooking. Fiddleheads are the epitome of spring food. You can taste the newness of the season, the earth they have grown from. Fiddleheads can be a bit of an acquired taste. People sometimes complain that they are bitter, but if you clean them properly it isn’t a problem. Most recipes suggest washing them in cold water. The real trick is to place them in a paper bag and give them a good shake to loosen the brown flakey bits from the fiddleheads which is what makes them bitter. Repeat the procedure a few times changing the bag each time (I use the paper bags we get with our wine purchase). Then rinse them with water and they are ready to cook. One of the great things about fiddleheads is that you can steam, boil, or sauté them and the cooking time is pretty short for all those methods. Today’s recipe is for a make ahead salad, which is always a bonus. Use a mild curry paste, otherwise you will mask the taste of the fiddleheads.
Marinated Fiddlehead Salad ¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar or lime juice
2 tsp yellow curry paste
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
3 cups fiddleheads
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh coriander
1. In a shallow dish, whisk together oil, vinegar, curry paste, cinnamon and cardamom. Set aside.
2. Remove brown papery scales from the fiddleheads and rinse several times under cold running water. Drain well and trim off ends. Steam in a rack over boiling water for 7 to 9 minutes or until crisp-tender.
3. Drain well and add to the dressing in the dish. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to one day, shaking dish occasionally to stir. Before serving, bring to room temperature and sprinkle with coriander.
Serves 4 to 6 as a vegetable side dish
From Food and Drink Magazine, Early Summer Edition, 2005