Learning to Like Sautéed Fiddlehead Ferns

By Anastatia Curley
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kthread/flickr


In this week's share: fiddlehead ferns, carrots, beets, English peas, lettuce, onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumber. To try Anastatia's recipe for pasta with peas, asparagus, and fiddlehead ferns, click here.

Regular readers of this column might remember that a few weeks ago I found fiddlehead ferns in my CSA share, which initially made me very excited but ultimately left me disappointed. It was kind of like being asked out on a date by a distractingly handsome man, only to discover that you had nothing in particular to talk to him about. It's not that he turned out to be a Nazi sympathizer, or even a never-nude. He was perfectly nice; it's just that there's only so much to say about the weather.

However, this past week fiddleheads appeared again, and this time they were revelatory, because this time shelling peas also made an appearance. It's as though on your second date, Dreamy-but-Boring brought along his roommate, and that changed everything.

Actually, forgive my attempt to stretch that dating analogy: the point is, fiddleheads alone might just taste like grass, but fiddleheads in combination with a few other spring vegetables are delicious.

When Maggie and I opened our CSA box last week, a small bag of peas and one of fiddleheads sat nestled on top. Underneath sat a large white onion. There wasn't much thinking to do after that: the combination would make a perfect spring ragout, something light and green-tasting to pair with quantities of cold white wine and good friends on the back porch.

I had in mind a variation on a pasta sauce of peas, onions, and pancetta that I seemed to remember being a classic of Italian cooking. In deference to Maggie's veganism, I dropped the pancetta, and in deference to spring, augmented the peas with fiddleheads and asparagus. I coarsely chopped onions and cooked them slowly while Maggie soaked the fiddleheads in a few changes of water and shelled the peas. Once the onions were soft and browning, I added the fiddleheads and asparagus, and cooked them for a bit before dropping in the peas. Adding a bit of vegetable broth from the freezer, I left the vegetables to braise while I cooked the pasta.

Luckily, our friend Rachel showed up just about then, bearing the bottle of white wine I'd been hoping for. We carried it and bowls of pasta out to the back porch to spend the next few hours eating, drinking, and talking. I hope it was a harbinger of summer evenings to come.

Recipe: Spring Vegetable Pasta

Recent CSA cooking posts by Anastatia Curley:
In a Cooking Funk? Eat (Your Way) Out
A Soup to Soothe, and Please, the Stomach
When Other Produce Fades, Make Potato Pizza
A Walk on the Wild Side (with Fiddlehead Ferns)

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/05/learning-to-like-saut-ed-fiddlehead-ferns/57303/