I wanted to try this Martha Stewart’s recipe ever since I saw that spring al fresco image with fiddleheads pasta dinner served with a glass of white wine on a crisp white table cloth with some lilac flowers in the background. It has turned out to be an amazing vegetarian recipe with some new ingredients (fiddleheads and dandelions), so next spring I’ll be doing it again. Here is my tribute to it.
Fiddleheads make a great spring addition to our nutrient-deprived menus. They are low in calories (only 10 calories per ounce), contain the antioxidant beta-carotene and omega fatty acids. They are rich in niacin, potassium, vitamin C and dietary fibre. Rule of thumb: fiddlehead ferns need to be cooked for consumption, or they can cause a stomach upset. They can be blanched, roasted, sautéed, grilled, pickled or frozen.
Here are some interesting facts you may not know about fiddlehead ferns:
- Fiddlehead ferns are known to be eaten in Australia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and USA.
- They are used for beer making in Norway and Siberia.
- First Nations people used fiddleheads not only for food, but also as a medicine against worms and parasites.
- There is an annual fiddlehead festival in Maine, USA.
- Maliseet Indians of New Brunswick, Canada, where known to use fiddlehead fern as medicine against malaria and believed it was good to eat it to pure the body of toxins and impurities.
- New Brunswick is abundant in fiddlehead ferns and Canadian village Tide Head bills itself as ”Fiddlehead Capital of the World”.
- In Europe fiddlehead ferns are used as a preservative for wine.
If you never tried fiddleheads before, the taste is like a cross between asparagus, spinach and artichoke with perhaps a little more accentuated earthiness. The loamy taste of fiddlehead ferns can easily put some people off, so if you never had it before I suggest you begin with a very small batch. Most people I know, however, find their taste and zesty crunch agreeable and exotic, so it’s really a very individual experience.
The recipe calls for the fiddleheads to be steamed, but you can boil them instead for 2-3 minutes. Then they are sautéed with leeks and tossed with dandelion greens, lemon juice, olive oil and linguine. It is as simple as that.
Serve immediately in a hot plate. I topped mine with some shaved parmesan and few anchovies and added them as optional in the recipe. A real no-brainer to throw a little al fresco party in your backyard.
Store any extra of the sauté in the fridge in a plastic container for a few days and use it with another pasta, rice or mashed potatoes some other time. Or just sprinkle with your favorite vinegar and extra olive oil and bring the box with you for a lunch or picnic to have with a toast or crackers: crunchy, refreshing and full of flavours.
FIDDLEHEAD FERNS SPRING PASTA
1 pound linguine
1/2 pound fiddleheads
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound leeks, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups dandelion or sorrel greens washed
shaved parmesan to garnish (optional)
few anchovies to garnish chopped (optional)
Clean the fiddleheads by soaking them in a cold water with a teaspoon of salt and some lemon juice. Push them down several times to clean them well. Transfer them to steamer rack in a saucepan and steam covered for about 4-5 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the linguine until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leaks and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add fiddleheads and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until golden. Stir in dandelion greens. Toss the mixture with the pasta, season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Whole Living.