Category Archives: fiddleheads

Wild Greens Workshop

heyday_farm2It’s that time again for those of us on the West Coast. The woods and meadows are waking up. Wild greens—tasty, nutritious, free—decorate the woods and forest fringes.

To ring in the spring harvest, I’ll be teaching a foraging and cooking workshop at Heyday Farm on Bainbridge Island on March 27, with a focus on wild spring greens, especially stinging nettles. As I’ve said here before, nettles are the backbone of my spring foraging. I use nettles in soups, pastas, and sauces, and I put up large quantities of nettle pesto to have on hand year-round.

At Heyday, we’ll spend the morning foraging in the woods around the farm, learning about and harvesting what’s in season. Back at the historic Heyday Farm kitchen and farmhouse, we’ll learn several ways to pair and prepare our catch. The class will include a satisfying lunch. Cost is $110. Please sign up through Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation, or by calling (206) 842-2306.

Sichuan Pickled Fiddleheads with Ground Pork

fiddle6The fiddlehead window is closing quick. Seems like they were up a week earlier than recent past seasons, and lowland ferns are mostly fronded out by now. I went higher to get my pickling supply, to about 2,000-ft elevation, and filled a 10-pound bag.

Most of these fiddleheads will be pickled either in an Asian refrigerator style that doesn’t require processing (and maintains the bright green color) or this way. That is, once I get around to the odious task of cleaning them.

Some will get cooked too. Simply sautéed in butter is a good strategy. I also like my fiddleheads in Eastern preparations.

I’ve posted a number of Asian fiddlehead recipes over the years, two of my favorites being the above mentioned quick pickles and Sichuan dry-fried. The recipe here combines elements of both. I used Fuchsia Dunlop’s pickling recipe and then stir-fried the pickled fiddleheads with a little ground pork, Sichuan peppercorns, and dried chile peppers (see Land of Plenty).

The result is easily my favorite new fiddlehead recipe.

First, you’ll need to pickle some fiddleheads (a minimum half-pound) in the Sichuan style.

Sichuan Pickled Vegetables

1 quart-sized jar with lid
2 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup rock or sea salt
4 dried chiles
1/2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 tsp rice wine
1/2 star anise
1 tbsp brown sugar
1-inch piece of unpeeled ginger
1/3 cinnamon stick
1 lb or more vegetables, such as string beans, slice carrot, daikon radish, etc.

1. Dissolve salt in boiling water and set aside to cool.

2. Add pickling spices to jar and add cooled water. Cover and shake to mix.

3. Fill jar with vegetables (e.g., fiddleheads), making sure brine covers them. Tighten lid and put aside in a cool, dark place for a minimum 24 hours; a week is better. You can continue to replenish the jar with vegetables by adding more salt, sugar, and wine.

Pickled Fiddleheads with Ground Pork

1/2 lb Sichuan pickled fiddleheads (see pickling recipe above)
1/4 lb ground pork
1/2 tsp rice wine
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp peanut oil
3-4 dried chiles, halved and deseeded
1/2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns

1. Mix pork with rice wine, soy sauce, and salt in a small bowl.

2. Add 1 tbsp oil to wok over high heat until smoking. Add pork and stir-fry until dry and crumbly, a few minutes. Return meat to bowl.

3. Add 1 tbsp oil to wok over medium heat and quickly stir-fry Sichuan peppercorns and chiles until fragrant, careful not to burn, less than a minute. Add pickled fiddleheads and cooked pork into wok and continue stir-frying another couple minutes. Fiddleheads should remain tightly scrolled; serve before they start to unwind in the wok.

Serves 2 with another dish and rice, or 4 with a few additional dishes.

The other day I stir-fried some fresh fiddleheads in a very different Sichuan preparation, one relying on what is known as a fragrant fermented sauce (based on the mixture of sweet bean paste and soy sauce). This sauce is especially good with a simple stir-fry of beef or pork slivers with thinly sliced bell pepper, a popular dish all over Sichuan Province.

For my improvised version (see above), I stir-fried pressed seasoned tofu cut into cubes along with the fiddleheads, thin-sliced rounds of carrot, and flowering chives cut into 3-inch sections. It was delicious, but now I understand why the fragrant fermented sauce is most frequently encountered with slivers of meat and vegetables. Because of the large and varying shapes of my ingredients, rather than bathed in a comforting brown gravy, they were spotted with oily blots and most of the sauce drained to the bottom of the dish in a dark slick.

At least I have plenty of fiddleheads on hand to continue my experiments with this fleeting taste of spring.

Wild Bibimbap

I’ve been on a Korean comfort food kick of late, and comfort food doesn’t get much more Cadillac-like than a big steaming bowl of bibimbap.

The translation is “mixed rice”—it’s basically rice covered with dollops of prepared dishes, or namul, which are then mixed together at table. The rice is heaped into a large bowl (all the better if it’s a heated stone bowl, or dolsot, unlike the cheap plastic bowl pictured), and then a variety of meats and vegetables are arranged in a colorful and artfully balanced manner over the rice. The piece de resistance is a fried egg on top. A vinegared gochujang sauce ties it all together.

Here’s the thing: bibimbap is traditionally served with at least one wild ingredient, gosari, also known as bracken fern (and sometimes called fernbrake on imported packages of dried bracken). This time of year the young fern shoots can be eaten fresh. Click here for instructions on foraging and preparing bracken (plus a health advisory). For bibimbap I like to cut the parboiled bracken into 3-inch sections and stir-fry with a little sesame oil, garlic, soy, and Chinese cooking wine.

I added two other wild ingredients to my bibimbap: stinging nettles and oyster mushrooms. The nettles are a substitute for the traditional spinach, the oysters for shiitake. To prepare the nettles, I harvested several cups of tender young nettle tops and boiled them for a minute to neutralize the sting, then wrung out the water with my hands before giving the nettles a quick rough chop. Next, I stir-fried them in a little peanut oil with minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and soy sauce. The oyster mushrooms got cut into strips and stir-fried the same way until slightly browned on the edges.

Bibimbap is simple fare, but it requires alacrity in the kitchen—and with so many different ingredients, my advice is to make this dish for four or more people. Do all the prep work first (i.e., the chopping), then stir-fry each of the namul toppings in quick succession. Mound onto a large serving plate and keep covered. Other common toppings include: julienned and stir-fried zucchini; julienned carrots, which can be served raw or quickly stir-fried; bean sprouts, which should be boiled for a couple minutes until tender and then drained and tossed with a splash of sesame oil; and thinly sliced steak, bulgogi, marinated beforehand with a little sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, and sugar before stir-frying.

Once all this busy work is complete, use your innate artistic skills to make an eye-catching presentation, kick back in a cozy place with friends and some cold beers, and dig in.

 

Quick Asian Pickled Fiddleheads

Here on the West Coast, we pamper our ladies. Fie on you East Coasters with your easy-to-please ostriches! Alas, it is true: lady fern fiddleheads, should we not treat them with the utmost care and respect, can leave a bitter taste in the mouth, their delicate beauty notwithstanding.

Bitterness. It’s a state of mind, you say. Bitter is as bitter does. Easy for an ostrich eater to say. The fact is, us West Coasters have no choice but to pamper. It’s part of the contract. Otherwise we’re sure to be disappointed. It happens in restaurants all the time. “They looked so cool on the plate…I thought they’d taste better.”

The bitterness in ladies varies significantly from patch to patch, for reasons that I can’t begin to understand. If you find a patch of lady fern fiddleheads that’s less bitter than others, hold tight to that patch!

The next best thing is to use them accordingly. Like with this very simple pickling recipe. It’s a “quick pickle” deal. I’ve used other pickling recipes in the past for fiddleheads, but this is my new favorite for its ease, texture (i.e. crunch), and a perfect balance between salt and sweet. Perhaps more importantly, any bitterness is miraculously vaporized in the marriage of flavors.  One of the benefits of the quick pickle method is that the fiddleheads aren’t subjected to a withering hot water bath. The obvious downside is that you can’t keep them on hand for months at a time, at least I don’t think you can. So far I haven’t been able to keep any on hand for more than a couple days.

2 packed cups fiddleheads, cleaned
1 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 half-pint jars

A note on cleaning fiddleheads: It’s imperative that you remove as much of the brown, hairy, and bitter-tasting sheath that adorns the fiddlehead as possible. The easiest way to do this is to first run the fiddleheads under a strong tap, then immerse in a bowl of water and work them with your fingers, emptying and filling the bowl periodically to discard the residue. Finally, clean each fiddlehead individually between thumb and forefinger for a few seconds. The cleaner the better. Neatly trim the ends afterward.

1. In a pot of salted water, parboil cleaned fiddleheads for 1 minute. Drain and shock in cold water before draining again and removing to paper towels.

2. Mix pickling brine of rice vinegar, salt, and sugar.

3. Pack 2 half-pint jars with fiddleheads and cover with pickling brine. Refrigerate overnight.

Licorice Fern Beurre Blanc

The rhizomes of licorice ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) are at their tender peak right now in the Pacific Northwest. I nabbed a few while hiking the other day.

A rhizome is the root-like base that anchors the fern. Licorice ferns most commonly grow from the trunks and horizontal limbs of old deciduous trees such as big-leaf maples, but they’ll also colonize rocks, logs, and other support structures. A network of  rhizomes, often hidden beneath a thick carpet of moss, spreads across damp, forested habitat, sprouting fronds as it creeps along. To harvest, you peel back the moss, locate the rhizome, and gently pull it off its support. A single rhizome can be more than a foot long, with several ferns attached. Native Americans chewed them for their sweet, licorice-like taste and also as a medicinal that was thought to cure ailments such as colds and sore throats.

Licorice ferns are interesting edibles. More and more restaurants are using them to infuse sauces, make teas, or serve candied. The anise-like flavor is apparent when the root is nibbled raw, but in a sauce I find it much more subtle, with a touch of a licorice sensation on the tongue and a hint of sweetness. In general I’d say licorice ferns are more of a novelty, a way to add an exotic touch to a meal.

Broiled Halibut with Licorice Fern Beurre Blanc, Truffle Butter & Root Medley

Halibut just came back into season a week ago and root vegetables are still going strong, though their days are numbered. Even though we had frost on the front lawn the other morning, it looks like the Pacific Northwest is finally waking up to spring like the rest of the country. It was in the sixties over the weekend.

This dish is adapted from a lunch I had at Etta’s Kitchen not too long ago, except that Etta’s used lingcod and some preserved lemon, and the licorice fern is my addition. It’s an easy yet elegant preparation, comfort all the way. The root medley, especially the parsnip and fennel, adds sweetness to echo the licorice fern in the sauce.

Beurre Blanc is a sauce every home cook should know. It’s a simple way to gussy up a basic meal of fish or vegetables, and it’s suitable for fancier occasions, too. Lately I’ve been playing with the ingredients and amounts without any of the problems that typically plague other more persnickety French sauces, and I have yet to break one despite experiments with lobster stock, extra wine, lemon juice in place of vinegar, and varying amounts of butter. You can make a butter extravaganza if you like, but I really prefer it a little less creamy.

Cut the root vegetables into 1-inch cubes. I used a parsnip, a turnip, two large carrots, a couple small potatoes, a fennel bulb, and maybe a third of a celery root to make the medley, which I slathered with olive oil and cooked at 375 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes. The root vegetables got plated, bathed in sauce, and topped with a broiled fillet of fish. A pat of truffle butter closed the deal.

The sauce here is a modified Beurre Blanc without the usual butter assault. As mentioned, I like this sauce slightly brothy, though no one would ever call it thin.

1 four-inch licorice fern root, peeled & chopped
1 heaping tbsp shallot, finely diced
1/4 cup champagne (or white wine) vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup stock, divided (chicken, vegetable, lobster)
1 stick cold butter, cut into 8 – 10 sections
2 tsp lemon juice
salt & white pepper

1. Combine fern root, shallots, vinegar, and wine in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to 2 tablespoons.

2. Add half the stock and reduce to a few tablespoons. Add remainder of stock and reduce again.

3. Turn heat to low and start adding cold butter one section at a time, whisking frequently. Add another piece when the previous one has melted into the sauce. Don’t overheat or sauce will break. You can adjust the consistency by adding more butter or stock. For this dish I prefer it soupy. Finish the sauce with a splash of lemon juice off heat, whisk again, and strain.

Serves 4 modest portions.

Sichuan Dry-Fried Fiddleheads

Some of our wild foods get points for style. Fiddleheads, f’rinstance. They’re just so cool to look at.

In my neck of the woods it’s fiddlehead time right now. In fact, those at sea level have already unscrolled their lovely coiled shoots, but several hundred feet higher in the lower foothills of the Cascades the fiddleheads are just now awaking to spring (even though they got hailed on the other day) and stretching their arms  beside gurgling rivulets of runoff.

These are the young shoots of the lady fern, Athyrium felix-femina. East of the Rockies the fiddlehead of choice is the ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris.

The best way to forage a fiddlehead patch is to identify the adult ferns in summer, when their fronds are easily recognized, then go back in spring and pick the newly emerged fiddleheads. A good patch will be chockablock with ferns. In my region these patches are most often found in moist mixed woodlands, usually near water. Swamps, streamsides, estuaries, and other riparian areas offer suitable habitat. Sometimes disturbed ground can provide an opening for fiddlehead patches. I know of a long stretch of gently rolling terrain beneath powerlines where the trees have been cleared that is now home to lady ferns as far as the eye can see.

Once the fronds are fully leafed out they become toxic. Move up in elevation.

My own experience with lady fern fiddleheads is that their taste varies widely. Some are quite bitter, others are more buttery and rounded in flavor, like a cross between artichoke and asparagus. I haven’t figured out why. Perhaps the flavor is influenced by soil ph or other environmental conditions. In any event, preparation can be tailored to suit taste. With a particularly bitter batch, I’ll temper with butter, lemon juice, and salt in a simple fiddlehead pasta tossed with parmesan. Milder batches accompany meats or fish as a side dish. A fiddlehead frittata is an excellent way to enjoy them and I’ve also pickled fiddleheads. But my new preferred way to prepare fiddleheads is…

…Sichuan style. One of my favorite Sichuanese dishes—a signature preparation known to even casual admirers of the spicy cuisine from southwestern China—is Dry-fried String Beans. Using fiddleheads in place of string beans, I made a similar dish the other night to accompany Kung Pao Chicken. And it turned out even better than expected.

Prep the fiddleheads carefully. Soak in water a few minutes before rubbing off the papery sheaf with your fingers. Blanche in salted boiling water for a minute, then thoroughly dry with paper towels. Even a tiny amount of moisture can pop and sizzle dangerously in a hot wok.

1 lb fiddleheads, cleaned
1/4 lb ground pork
1/3 cup peanut oil
1 tbsp garlic, diced
1 tbsp ginger, diced
10 dried red chili peppers
1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground
2 tbsp Sichuan preserved vegetable, chopped
3 scallion bulbs, chopped
2 tsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tbsp chili bean sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste

1. Combine rice wine, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, and sugar in small bowl to make sauce. Set aside.

2. Blanche fiddleheads for 1 minute in boiling, well-salted water. Remove and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

3. Heat oil in wok until nearly smoking, then add fiddleheads and stir-fry for a few minutes until beginning to blister. Remove to paper towels.

4. Pour off all but a tablespoon of oil and return to heat. Add garlic, ginger, chopped scallion bulbs, red chili peppers, preserved vegetable, and Sichuan peppercorns. Cook a minute until fragrant, then add ground pork. Stir-fry together until pork is browned. Return fiddleheads to wok, add reserved sauce, and stir-fry another minute to coat.

5. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Bracken Fern: To Eat or Not To Eat?


The other day I ate a known carcinogen—a juicy char-grilled burger. I’m not alone in my cancer-baiting, certainly not this time of year when hamburgers and hotdogs are mainstays of the backyard barbecue.

But to eat a handful of stir-fried bracken fern is to seemingly court disaster in some quarters. You see, bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is also known to contain carcinogens, specifically a substance called ptaquiloside. Never mind that bracken has been a food staple of Native Americans for centuries if not millennia, or that the Japanese also have a yen for this common fern and consider it a delicacy of spring. In fact, we might just call out these two populations on purpose, since studies have suggested their higher rates of intestinal cancer could be linked to bracken.

On the other hand, there are plenty who are suspicious of inconclusive studies and the advice of nutritionists. In his book Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, Steve Brill says: “I wouldn’t be afraid of eating reasonable quantities of wild [bracken] fiddleheads during their short season.” And on his web site, Florida forager Green Deane says: “I think nearly everything causes cancer and I am willing to risk a few fiddleheads with butter once or twice a spring, which is about as often as I can collect enough in this warm place.”

What to do?

I’ve been avoiding bracken for years because of these studies, but in the end I’d heard enough positive reports from trusted sources that I decided to give the fern a try. I’m not planning to eat huge quantities of bracken anytime soon, but to banish this ancient food from the table strikes me as equally rash.

Most of us have seen bracken before. It’s a hardy fern that sometimes covers acres of land. Generally it emerges later in spring than other fern species. Its fiddleheads—if they can be called that, since they hardly resemble the typical fiddlehead form of the ostrich or lady fern—are claw-shaped, like a hawk that’s squeezing its fist around around an unlucky mouse. Collect bracken when it’s still tightly coiled, about six to eight inches in length; the picture above shows a specimen that is just slightly past its prime for the pot.

How I Cooked My Bracken

My friend Jon Rowley passed along these instructions from Seattle’s premier sushi chef, who serves bracken at his eponymous restaurant, Shiro’s.

Salt a pot of water generously and bring it to boil. Stir in the bracken, kill the heat, and allow the water to cool. This will take a little while. Next wash off the bracken under cool running water before serving. For my dish I gave the bracken an additional stir-fry with spring porcini mushrooms, a little ground pork, and splashes of sesame oil, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine (Xiaoxing).

The flavor is delicate. I liken it to the taste of kale or chard in the package of thin asparagus.

So what about you? Do you eat bracken or have an opinion about its edibility or lack thereof? I’d like to hear from you.

Spring Risotto with Morels, Fiddleheads & Asparagus

Do I really need to say much about this dish or its use of the best of what the season has to offer? Nah.

1 dozen asparagus stalks
20 fiddleheads
15-20 medium-sized morels, halved
1 cup risotto rice
1 small onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, diced
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup parm, grated
2 tbsp butter, divided
olive oil

1. Cut 2-inch tops of asparagus; cut rest of stalk into 1-inch pieces. Blanche fiddleheads and asparagus (minus tops) for 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Blanche asparagus tops 1 minute right before serving.

2. Saute onion and garlic until soft in a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil, a couple minutes. Add morels and cook for 2-3 minutes before adding fiddleheads and asparagus (minus tops). Cook together another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add more olive oil if necessary, then add rice, stirring to coat. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.

4. Add a ladle of chicken broth at a time until rice is al dente.

5. Off heat stir in a tablespoon of butter and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately, garnishing with asparagus tops.

Serves 2.

Sichuan Dry-fried Chicken with Fiddleheads


Sichuan cuisine makes sense in Seattle. It rains here. It’s gray, with chilly winds blowing in off the Sound to dampen our days. The warm flavors of Sichuan transport us to a more tropical climate. The spiciness jolts us out of our somnolence.

The other day I went to my boy’s first track meet. This spring he decided he would rather run than play baseball. The meet was chaotic, bleachers groaning with parents, everyone packed into the covered area because of a steady, cold rain that penetrated to the bone. Riley placed third in the 400 and was feeling good, but over the course of the next two hours and countless other events he stiffened up and got a stomach ache. By the time they called the 800 meter he was nearly asleep in my lap. He pulled himself up and joined the other runners.

The gun sounded and Riley took off. He was easily the smallest kid in the field. Halfway around the track he made his move, taking first position at a good clip as the others fell in behind him biding their time. They rounded the halfway point and that’s when I saw Riley’s hand go to his stomach. He clutched at his side and I could feel the cramp spreading across my midsection too. One, two, three runners passed him. Halfway through the second lap he had fallen into last place and was clearly in pain. He jogged the final stretch as everyone waited patiently to begin the next race. I was ready for tears, to put an arm around him in the rain. But as he crossed the finish line the stands erupted into cheers and a few opposing coaches gave him high-fives.

Back home while Riley warmed up in a tub I cooked a Sichuan dinner for us. Before I could even take a picture of my plate Riley had dispatched his, even the fiddleheads. He put his chopsticks down and looked up at me. “Maybe I’ll try the 50 next time.”

***

I like Sichuan cuisine, have for a while. Until recently I didn’t expect to ever actually try cooking it at home. But not too long ago I reached a point where I’d accumulated enough ingredients from other Asian recipes that I could at least make an attempt without needing to mount a full-scale invasion on my local Mekong Market. My first try was, no surprise, Kung Pao Chicken. Then I got a little fancier with a wild surf ‘n’ turf twist: Kung Pao Geoduck with Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms. The result was stellar.

Experience begets experience. With a well-known classic under my belt I felt ready to make a stab at some more obscure restaurant favorites. Down the street is a hole-in-the-wall Sichuanese place called, helpfully, Sichuanese Cuisine where they make a killer Dried Chicken with string beans. For my version I used Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty as a guide. Dunlop went native to learn and collect the recipes in her book, which is focused exclusively on Sichuan Province. Unlike my local, her Dry-fried Chicken isn’t battered or deep-fried, but I figured the concept was similar: chicken that is toasty on the outside and with little adornment in terms of sauce, yet succulent and flavorful on the inside. Mine added fiddleheads to the mix.

I can now say that my version was definitely flavorful, though I’ll need some more practice with the alchemy of Sichuan technique before I fully nail the succulent part. Rather than locking in the juices, mine just seemed dried out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try this recipe, because like I said it was still quite tasty, and a better wok-master than myself might find that perfect balance of heat and timing to hit the bull’s-eye.

The fiddleheads were my idea. I’ve been trying to come up with new ways to serve these cool little green scrolls that I find in the woods.

1/4 cup peanut oil
1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
6-8 dried chili peppers
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 1/2 tbsp Sichuan chili bean paste
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
3 scallions, chopped
2 handfuls fiddleheads, parboiled for 2 minutes
1-2 tbsp sesame oil

1. Heat peanut oil in wok over high flame until smoking, then add chicken and stir-fry several minutes to cook off most of meat’s water content.
2. Reduce heat to medium, stir in dried chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, and cook until fragrant, a couple minutes.
3. Add chili bean paste, soy sauce, wine, and salt. Continue stirring until sauce has largely cooked off and the meat is toasty on the outside, 10-15 minutes.
4. Stir in green vegetables, coating with the last of the oil, and cook together a couple minutes. Off heat stir in sesame oil before serving over rice.

Makes 2 generous portions.

Fiddlehead Frittata


On the trail the other day I came upon an elderly Korean couple with full bags of fiddleheads and devil’s club buds. They looked a little guilty clutching their haul, probably because the rules about foraging in state parks are ambiguous and rarely posted, and my interest might have struck them as of a vaguely law enforcement nature. Then I emptied my pockets and revealed my own small stash of fiddleheads gleaned along the way.

Big smiles now. The Koreans were surprised that someone of my age and ethnicity knew about the hidden delicacies in the woods. It’s true that most of the foragers I encounter tend to be older first-generation immigrants. As I say in the book in the squid-jigging chapter, foraging comes natural to such folks. They foraged in their native countries and see no reason not to forage in their new adoptive homes. In many cases they find far less competition, as Americans are too busy porking out at the usual fast food drive-thrus.

You can read more about foraging and cooking fiddleheads here.

I decided on the Fiddlehead Frittata mainly because I like the alliterative sound of it. If you had asked me yesterday what I thought about frittatas in general, I would not have put myself in the camp that is absolutely nuts for this Italian staple, though I might have given an appreciative nod to its simplicity as well as the long-standing tradition of saving a few wedges for later. But now, after chowing down on today’s Fiddlehead Frittata for lunch, I can safely say it’s a thing of awe-inspiring beauty. I also got lucky in the choices I made: the slight bitterness of the fiddleheads was balanced nicely by the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the bright flavors of the herbs, in particular the sage.

Like so much of the cooking I do, the frittata is rustic country fare—peasant food, as they say. It fits right in with my love of chowders and stews and casseroles. I’ll be making more in the future.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup fiddleheads, cleaned and blanched in boiling water for a few minutes
1 onion, chopped
6 eggs
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 handful fresh herbs, chopped
1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. On stove top over medium heat add oil to 10-inch non-stick, oven-proof skillet. Saute onions for a few minutes, then add fiddleheads. Cook for several more minutes, until onions begin to caramelize and fiddleheads are tender.

2. Whisk together eggs, cream, and your favorite herbs. I used thyme, oregano, parsley, and sage. Add grated mozzarella to mixture.

3. Reduce stove to medium. Pour egg mixture into skillet, tilting pan slightly to insure even distribution. Cook until eggs have firmly set on the bottom, 5 or 6 minutes.

4. Sprinkle parmesan on top and finish cooking in the oven, several more minutes.

5. Remove skillet from oven, allow to cool for a minute or two, then slide frittata onto large serving dish (or cover pan with dish and invert if easier, but remember to flip frittata back over or cheese will run off). Cut into wedges and serve.

Serves 4.