Sunday, May 22, 2016
Sautéed Fiddlehead Fern Pasta
Spring! It's such a wonderful time to take advantage of fresh produce. And as I said in my post a few weeks back, I have been doing just that.
This recipe features some wonderful local produce from Farmigo, but you should be able to find these ingredients in the early spring at a farmer's market or anywhere else selling local produce on the East Coast (the west has its own western fiddlehead fern, known as a lady fern).
Despite being quite intrigued, I'd never tried fiddlehead ferns before making this recipe. Frankly, they certainly look a bit strange and I wasn't quite sure how I would feel about them! Turns out they're delicious...essentially the texture of a delicate asparagus but with a richer flavor (almost nutty) that needs to be tasted to be fully appreciated.
Since I had never cooked with fiddlehead ferns before, I did some reading. I checked out a few sites. GRACE Communications Foundation had a very thorough description of the history of their use, cultivation, characteristics, and how to prepare them.
There are mixed opinions on the health effects of eating ferns (see link above for more info), so it is best to eat them in moderation. It is also recommended to boil or steam them for 10 minutes before preparing. I was worried this might effect the flavor, but it did not! They were excellent. The site I used gave excellent instructions for cleaning and boiling, which I've included in the recipe below. said they paired well with ramps, so I incorporated both into my recipe. They compliment each other beautifully.
You essentially just sautée everything together, add your favorite pasta, a little splash of vinegar and lemon, and you're good to go!
Sautéed Fiddlehead Fern Pasta with Shallots, Ramps and Toasted Walnuts
What You'll Need:
8 oz. fiddlehead ferns, cleaned
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
1 bunch ramps, cleaned and trimmed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dried basil (plus a pinch)
1 tbsp white wine (optional)
1/4 c. toasted walnuts
1 16 oz. package pasta
1 tbsp white wine vinegar*
Juice of 1/2 lemon
What You'll Need to Do:
Clean your ferns. Fill a bowl with cold water, then gently add your fiddlehead ferns and swish them around. This should remove all of the brown, paper bits that can cling to them (which are just a part of the fern), and any dirt that may be hidden inside those tiny coils.
Prepare a bowl of ice water. Bring two pots of lightly salted water to boil. Boil pasta until just al dente in one pot, then drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water and returning to the pot. Boil fiddlehead ferns for 10 minutes in another. Transfer the fiddlehead ferns to the ice water after 10 minutes, to stop the cooking. Then drain well and pat thoroughly dry.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, adding shallots once warm. After a minute or so, when the shallots are fragrant and just beginning to soften, add in the fiddlehead ferns. Sautée for a minute and then add in your ramps, along with red pepper flakes and/or black pepper and a pinch of dried basil. Throw in a splash (about 1 tbsp) of white wine to steam your ramps. Add your walnuts, toss and remove from heat.
Stir in 1 tbsp white vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp dried basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper to your pasta. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Add pasta to your sauté pan and return to medium heat, tossing the pasta with the vegetables to allow the flavors to really soak in for a minute or two. Turn off the heat, and add lemon juice (1-2 tbsp), to taste.
Tips and Tricks
So many parts of this recipe are interchangeable. No ramps? Try some spring onions, or just another shallot. No ferns? No problem there either. Ramps will pair great with this pasta, as will spring onions. The combinations are endless!
*similarly, don't feel too tied to white wine vinegar, red wine, balsamic, or even apple cider will do in a pinch!