Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fiddlehead Ferns and Angel Hair Pasta

After I was a music major, but before I was a psychology major, I majored in geology (I won't even mention that I graduated with a double major in English and Communications.  You might just get confused.) I was, as Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory would say, one of the dirt people.  I LOVED being a dirt person. If I hadn’t been such a right-brainer and possessed even a whisper of the math skills required, I would have graduated with that degree and saved myself a lot of trouble. 

One of my favorite topics was wild foods, specifically the wild foods of Missouri.  Did you know that day lily bulbs are edible?  They taste a bit like turnips. So is chickweed (lemony taste), and lamb quarter (spinach taste), dandelion (bitter), and a lot of other grief-causing weeds in your perfect lawn. A foodie even then, I made acorn bread out of flour that I ground myself. It took a lot of acorn gathering, cleaning, hours of boiling, then roasting, grinding, and pulverizing, but the yield was a wonderful nutty flour that made a delicious bread. 

Where am I going with this?  I tend to embrace the unusual when it comes to food and, unless it's wiggly or slimy, am always anxious to try something new.  So when I saw the fiddlehead ferns on the
Melissa's website, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I had never eaten an unfurled fern frond, so this was something that I had to try.

Mr. O-P is not quite as intrepid.
Fiddlehead, WHAT?!  

Fern, I told him.  Small, delicate, unfurled fronds, a delicacy with a short season.

Ferns.  Ferns?  Like we have hanging on the back porch.

Umm.  No.  Those are a Boston Ferns, and I'm not at all sure that they are edible, and am certainly not interested in finding out. 

So, he decided to pass on this bit of seasonal deliciousness, and alas, the season is over.  But I am telling you now, to set up an alert on your calendar to remind you in May of next year to give these a try.  Beautiful and tender, bursting with flavor, reminiscent of early asparagus and wild mushrooms, if you have a fondness for vegetables at all, you will love these.  Yesterday they adorned pasta, today they filled an omelet, tonight I'm thinking they will be wonderful tossed with a warm vinaigrette. 

This recipe is from Emeril, slightly adapted as I didn't have his 
Essence spice mixture on hand so substituted Old Bay.

Fiddlehead Ferns and Angel Hair Pasta

1 pound Melissa’s fiddlehead ferns
1 pound angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon truffle oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grated Parmesan, for garnish
Essence, recipe follows, for garnish

In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the fiddleheads until they are crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the fiddleheads from the water and shock them in a bowl of ice water (unless you are going to use them immediately).

Drop angel hair pasta into the same pot of boiling water used for fiddleheads. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil. Sauté fiddlehead ferns, green onions, and red pepper flakes for 2 minutes. Drain pasta and add to skillet. Toss with truffle oil and salt and pepper. Divide pasta among 4 plates and garnish with grated cheese. Sprinkle with Essence and serve.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning
(also referred to as Bayou Blast):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

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Sweetladyelaine said...

This sounds great! I am a pasta & vegetable lover so this is right up my alley! Thanks, I will put it on my calendar!
Blessings My Friend,

stellarstamper said...

I'm from Missouri too and loved this post! I love learning new things! (I always wondered about acorns.) This recipe sounds delicious! Thank you! My dad said that during the Great Depression they made chicory coffee. (I never had it so I don't know what it tastes like.) He also showed me purslane- which I did try!

Raquel said...

I have always wanted to try Fiddleheads. When I was young, we used to eat Lambs Quarters frequently, as well as Dandelion greens. Yum!

Tracy Wood said...

Never heard of eating this, but I imagine they are tasty. I recently tried radish greens and they were a bit bitter, but I will give them another try soon.