Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fiddlehead Ferns Spring Pasta

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.
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.

Incredible Lobster Club with Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise

Here is a quick and easy lobster club extravaganza break before we come back with some other fiddlehead fern recipes. The lobster meat is a major player in this dish, but the secret ingredient of its drooling taste (and look) is lime and avocado mayo which subtly enhances the taste of the lobster and unites all club ingredients into one incredible sandwich. One big cooked lobster is sufficient to deliver two decent clubs in my opinion, but feel free to use one lobster per sandwich for more decadent twist. The proportion and number of bread slices completely depends on your appetite or diet regimen.

This sandwich barely requires a recipe and is infinitely flexible with its bread component. You can use white, whole wheat, whole grain, country, pumpernickel, gluten free bread, sliced tortilla, English muffins – anything that can be toasted and can make the ”floors” of this club. And for those on the diet, just keep the bottom layer of bread and modify the club into an open sandwich!

Toasted bread layered with fresh salad leaves and sliced cucumbers give a nice crunch and the neutral base for this club. A slice of crispy prosciutto or bacon really adds texture, complexity and an extra crunch, however I skipped it this time and the club was still delicious. The lime avocado mayo with a few drops of green Tabasco (you can actually replace it with the hot sauce of your taste) ignites the sweet lobster flesh instantly. If you have any leftovers of this mayo left, store it in the fridge where it can last for a few more days. Use it as a spread, in wraps, fish tacos or with grilled fish (like I did two days later, check this out – it was awesome with grilled salmon!):

The lobster club sandwich is ridiculously expensive in the restaurants and most of the time does not taste even close to this one. Lobster season is to catch the opportunity to make it at home your way. Embrace it! T.

Yields 4 clubs.
Ingredients for Mayo Sauce:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 rape avocado
1 lime zested and pressed
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley or dill chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon green Tabasco
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Ingredients for club sandwich:
2-4 lobster tails depending on a size and claws cooked and roughly diced (500-750 g of lobster meat)
4 slices of crisp cooked bacon or prosciutto (optional)
12 slices of toasted bread
32 thin slices cucumber
8 lettuce leaves or a 1/2 cup arugula
2 long toothpicks
If using bacon or prosciutto, put them between two sheets of paper towels and slide in a microwave for 1 minute at the maximum. Once cooked, set aside.
In a bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, avocado, lime zest and juice, celery, parsley or dill, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside. Chop the lobster meat. Toast the bread slices. Layer first 4 slices of bread with two lettuce leaves and four cucumber slices each. Add lobster meat layer and 1-2 spoons of mayonnaise. Top with a slice of bacon or prosciutto. Cover 4 sandwiches with a second slice of bread and repeat layering the ingredients. Top sandwiches with the third slice of bread to cover the clubs. Cut the sandwich diagonally and secure with toothpicks.

Fiddlehead Ferns & Parmesan Omelette

Last week was a ”fiddlehead fern ingredient week” in our house. I’ve got a pound of fiddleheads, which was enough to make several extraordinary dishes: omelette, spring pasta and a totally awesome pizza, which I will feature later this week-end (if I am able to make a break from our garden chores). If you like to eat what is in season and love to discover new flavours or ingredients, this recipe is a must try. The star of this post is a Fiddlehead Ferns & Parmesan Omelette. It’s incredible how the fiddlehead fern ingredient can turn the regular humble omelet into this elegant and exotic woodsy omelette.

May (from late April to mid-May to be exact) is the only time of the year when you can find fiddlehead ferns in your local farmers’ market or grocery. Equally, you can go to the forest or along the banks of the rivers and streams and forage fiddlehead ferns yourself while they are still tightly coiled. However, not every fern is edible and you have to know the exact North American varieties (ostrich, cinnamon, royal and bracken ferns). The one that looks fuzzy, for example, is not edible.

Here is a good video on edible and poisonous fiddleheads foraging and their cooking tips from Vermont Pure Herbs :
Although foraging them one day is a very tempting idea, for now I prefer to buy them from a store. In the US, especially Western US, fiddlehead ferns can be as expensive as $17 to $25 per pound, the reason why this spring delicacy is considered to be ”chic and snobbish”. In Eastern Canada, (and New England) however, it’s very affordable: $3.99 to $5.00 a pound, barely reflecting the inflation rate from year to year, unlike many other locally grown foods. And you only need a handful of these little green coils for any dish (i.e. omelet, pasta, pizza, etc.) as they have pretty strong flavor identity.
For the omelette, I made two varieties: one with fiddleheads, bacon and mushrooms; and another one simply with fiddleheads and parmesan additions (below recipe). Both were wonderful and were gone in a wink. I like to add a little bit of flour in the egg mix, when preparing my omelette (in this case I added gluten-free spelt flour). This trick makes a different, more substantial and soufflé-like effect without the necessity to separate the eggs.
I also use a mix of butter and olive oil for frying to prevent the butter to burn and add an extra touch of flavor. Finally, I serve it with a bit of sour cream or yogurt on a side. Delicious! Experiment with fiddleheads and your fav ingredients for yourself – it’s quite a journey! And stay tuned for the next wonderful dishes with this magic ingredient!
Ingredients for one omellete:
50g or 8 to 10 fiddleheads
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon water (or 15% cream)
1 tablespoon spelt flour (or wheat flower)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Blanch the fiddleheads for 2 minutes in a boiling salted water. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix eggs, water (or cream) and flour until the texture is smooth and has no lumps. Salt and pepper. In a hot 8 inch (20 cm), non-stick skillet, melt 1 teaspoon of butter and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Pour egg mix in a skillet. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the edge of omelette is almost cooked, but not the center. Distribute the filling on the half of the omelette. Using spatula, fold the omelette toward the filling (from one or both sides if you want) and cover the skillet for a minute. Remove the cover and slide the omelette onto a plate and serve. Yum!

Mom’s Party Grilled Lobsters with Garlic Chili Butter

As we approach May 12th, many of us question: ”How will I please my Mom on this day?”. Cooking something special, festive and not complicated sounds like a good idea to me. Lobster Grill comes first to my mind. There’s something deliciously retro running in my family about this classic Canadian party food. My Mom used to serve it to Grandma whenever she would visit around this time of the year, and I thought I should give it a shot this year for the Mom’s day. Fresh lobsters have just arrived to our city of Jazz, so why not support our fishermenand buy their amazing catch at a fraction of the world’s cost?

I skip the lobster boil step as this experience brings me to Annie Hall meets Julie & Julia lobster killing scenes I am not yet ready to perform. So I bought freshly store-boiled lobsters (they were still warm) for as little as $5.00 to $7.00 each. The final dish was as tasty as the one my mother used to make from a live lobsters. For those of you who are still willing to live through ”Annie Hall/Julie & Julia” moment, I am including instructions on the lobster boil below.
First and very important step: get some SMOKE in your BBQ. Soak a few handfuls of wood chips in a cold water for about 15 minutes or more. Wrap them in aluminum foil, pierce with the knife and place in the corners of your BBQ grill. Keep them there while you warm up the grill up until your lobsters are done. Once the chips start to burn, they add a special smokiness to the grill. You can get Bar-B-Q Mesquite, Apple or Cherry smoking chips in any garden section including Walmart, Home Depot, even Canadian Tire. I did not have any chips handy this time, so I used some bark and chips from fire wood, which also worked very well.
Next step: start the BBQ and, while it is warming up, cut the lobsters lengthwise and stuff them with the mix of chopped parsley, garlic, butter and chilli flakes. Cutting lobster might seem to be difficult, but a sharp Santoku knife makes it ”easy like Sunday morning”. Put the lobster flat on its back on the cutting board, position the tip of the knife where the tail connects to the body, press to crack the shell slightly and cut in one move all the way down to the fins in the back. Repeat the same move through the middle of the underbelly until the lobster is cut in two. Use the poultry sheers if you don’t have a good sharp knife in your possession.
Do the parsley, garlic, chili, butter mix and stuff your lobster halves with it gluing the parts of the lobster together with this mix. Once the grill is medium hot and your chips are smoking, place the lobsters carefully and grill them for about 8-9 minutes, turning once after the first 4 minutes. It’s optional, but for a special ”flambé” effect and additional taste, spray the lobsters with a shot of whiskey or brandy at the end of grilling.
While your lobsters are grilling you have time to set the table. Cover it with some old newspapers to create a rustic yet eco setting, which will not only provide a neutral background for the colorful dish, but will greatly help the later cleanup as the bits of shell will invariably fly everywhere during this party. Yes, lobster digging is messy and sloppy for almost everyone I know, but who cares? There is no right or wrong technique of breaking lobster claws: one way or another you will get it.
Once the lobsters are ready, serve them immediately and let your Mom select hers first – she will be happy, you will be happy, and you both will remember this party for a long-long time. Isn’t it a fantastic way to celebrate your Mom?
Happy Mother’s Day to all Mamas out there! Our Mothers are the most important part of the family and they deserve to be praised on this special day! T
3 live or freshly cooked lobsters
1/3 cup unsalted butter, plus some extra melted butter for dipping
bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
pinch of chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste
lemon and lime quartered
In a largest pot you have bring to boil about 2 gallons of water. Add two-three tablespoons of salt. Add one live lobster at a time and cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove the lobster with the tongs and return water to boiling. Add 2nd lobster. Cook for 3-5 minutes and remove with tongs. Repeat the same with the 3rd lobster. Technically, you can boil all three lobsters at the same time, but it will be messy, especially if your pot is not large enough.
Turn lobsters upside down and cut lengthwise from the tip of the tail through the head. Use a sharp Santoku knife or poultry sheers to cut the tail portion of the shell. In a small bowl mix butter with finely chopped garlic, parsley, chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mix inside the lobster halves. Save some of the mix for the dipping. Place lobsters on the medium hot grill, cover the grill and cook for 8-9 minutes. Serve with melted butter added to the parsley garlic mix in the ramekins and lots of lemon and lime wedges. Cheers!

Trees’ & Shrubs’ Simple Booster

Fruit, shade or evergreen trees and shrubs, even your fence cedars, they all need food, especially if you have clay or sandy soil or as soil depletes (and it does all the time). Over the years, I found that a little fertilizer spike can do miracle to the tree giving it a steady diet of nutrients. The spike fertilizer feeds all kind of trees and shrubs automatically all summer long and provides faster growth and beautiful crowns, not to mention the difference it makes to the quantity of the fruits. You can buy them in any garden center, Home Depot, Walmart, etc., they are not expensive (around $4-5 for a bunch of 9), but will make a HUGE difference (if you like to enjoy your garden). We apply them around this time of the year (from April up to mid-May), with the help of a rubber mallet. Try to catch the time before it rains, so the spikes will start working faster.

Select the variety you need and give your tree a boost, you will see how it will thank you back in no time. It’s the least expensive, but one of the most efficient way to make the trees happy. It also works for birds, bees and insects, which don’t have to confuse granulated nitrogen with their own food (I am talking about granulated fertilizers that stay undissolved for months killing birds and burning the grass). As much as chemical food can be beneficial, this one works best for us.