Archives for category: Fiddleheads

Two Saturdays ago I was thwarted at my local farmer’s market in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I walked over at 9 am, canvas tote in hand, and headed to the one stand that is known to carry fiddleheads during their fleeting three-week run at the markets. “Just sold the last ones,” the farmer told me, not without a proud smile crossing his face. And then he pointed to the couple who scored the last fronds. They looked pleased with themselves.

He tried to get me to buy some stinging nettles instead, which are basically the opposite of fiddleheads—whereas fiddleheads are furled, introspective, and soft, nettles have tiny stingers pointing out from the leaves daring you to touch them, let alone eat them. Fiddleheads are coy, nettles defiant. I passed on the nettles (although I do quite like to eat them) and was reassured he’d have more fiddleheads the following week, and maybe, but not likely, the week after that.

I found myself in Union Square Friday after work and much to my delight, despite the late hour, one stand with a tiny batch of fiddleheads remained at the Greenmarket. Joy! I bought them up, leaving just enough for another customer, so as not to be that person the farmer points to and says, “Sorry, she got the last ones.”

Now what to do with these sleeping beauties? I like to just steam or sauté them, dip them in a little melted butter, or serve with fish and rice. But I had an idea. I passed one of those bakery stands at the market that sells hearty loaves of rye and cheddar scones, and noticed big, thick slices of focaccia. Aha! What about fiddlehead focaccia? After all, the first time I had fiddleheads they were served on bruschetta; focaccia wasn’t all that different. And the fiddleheads could roast up nicely on the dough, along with any other toppings I decided to add.

So I bought some Kalamata olives, rosemary, and shallots and set out to make the dough. This recipe requires a bit of time because you have to let the dough rise twice—the first time for at least an hour and a half, the second time for about forty-five minutes. So it’s a good thing to make on a lazy weekend when you can fiddle around in your kitchen, then go do something else for a while, then come back, then do it again. I was pleased with the results — turns out fiddleheads work well with the flavors of rosemary and olives. The bread is salty, crunchy, and let’s face it, rather pretty and springy, no?

Fiddlehead Focaccia

2 c warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 c flour (plus more for handling the dough) Note: I used 2 c all-purpose white flour and 2 c stone ground whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
Olive oil (about 1/4 c total)
1/4 to 1/3 lb fiddleheads, cleaned, ends trimmed
1/2 to 1 c olives, pitted
1 shallot, sliced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
black pepper

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 c warm water. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir gently with a fork. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. (You don’t need a stand mixer to make this recipe, just strong muscles if doing by hand.)

Add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture and set the mixer to a medium speed, using the dough hook attachment. Mix for about 10 minutes, until the dough starts to come together and almost forms a ball. Oil a separate, large bowl, and add the dough, formed into a ball with your hands, to this bowl. Turn it around in the bowl so it gets coated with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth towel and let it stand in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, knead it into another ball, and return it to the bowl. Let stand until it doubles again, about 45 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Grease a baking sheet with oil. Transfer the dough to the sheet and spread out with your fingers. Drizzle with olive oil. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes. Then add the fiddleheads, olives, shallots, rosemary, and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Push the ingredients into the dough, and make more indentations with your fingers throughout the dough.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven, and serve warm or at room temperature.

I love, love, love weekends in Vermont. I lived here as a small child then again as a teenager and the sight of these mountains can still break my heart. I came up to visit my friend Arianna who had a baby, Rafael, two weeks ago. And no weekend in the Green Mountains is without culinary exploration.

My dad picked me up from the airport in Burlington Friday evening and told me we’d be having dinner at home with Bonnie, my step-mom. Bonnie is an excellent cook; a quick call to her en route from the airport revealed she was at City Market picking up fiddleheads and we were told to take a pound of shrimp out of the freezer when we got home. Yes ma’am!

Bonnie has a collection of Gourmet magazines from the 80s and 90s on a bookshelf in her kitchen and most meals begin with her at the table flipping through them for inspiration. This meal was no different, although by now she has this particular recipe almost committed to memory.

We were making “Christina’s Shrimp Seascapes,” sautéed shrimp with tomato, cilantro, and feta, from Gourmet’s May 1992 issue (only $2.50 back then), with chocolate ice cream on the cover. Good living. Along with this, sautéed fiddleheads and an avocado salad. Bonnie and I work well together in the kitchen, she as chef, me as sous-chef. I volunteer to chop garlic and onions, clean fiddleheads (colander or lettuce spinner in case you’re wondering), crumble feta. My dad cleans shrimp and in warmer months, mans the grill. Bonnie oversees the operation, makes any necessary sauces, tweaking recipes as she goes along, making notes in the margins.

Just as we were sitting down to eat, Arianna called unexpectedly. She was 5 minutes away in her car, Rafael in tow, and could she stop by? Could she! We got to coo over the little one, feed a hungry momma, and share this fantastic, but easy meal. Perfect start to my Vermont weekend.

Christina’s Shrimp Seascapes

(Sautéed Shrimp with Tomato, Cilantro, and Feta)

1/2 stick (1/4 c) unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

4 minced cloves garlic

4 tbsp dry white wine

1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tomatos, diced

heap of cilantro

4 oz feta, crumbled

In a large skillet heat the butter, olive oil, garlic, and wine over moderate heat until butter is melted. Add the shrimp, tomatoes, and cilantro and sauté for 3 minutes or until shrimp is just firm to touch. Turn off the heat, and add feta.

Serves 4.

Note: it’s good to have some crusty bread or even foccacia on hand to sop up the buttery tomato sauce left in the pan or on your plate.

Sautéed Fiddleheads

1 lb fiddleheads

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 olive oil or butter

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 c white wine

salt and pepper

Steam fiddleheads until just tender. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil (or butter) in a large frying pan and sauté the shallots and garlic until softened, a few minutes.

Mix together the soy sauce and wine. Add to the pan along with the steamed fiddleheads, turning to coat them. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Avocado Salad

2 ripe avocados, pitted and cut into small pieces

1/2 small red onion or whole shallot, chopped

2 minced cloves garlic

handful of cilantro

lime or lemon juice

olive oil

salt, pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, dressing with the lemon/lime juice and olive oil just before serving.

Arianna and Rafa

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