Archive for May 2008

Spicy Fiddlehead Ferns

May 29, 2008

Fiddlehead ferns are compact baby ferns before they open up. My recollection of fiddlehead ferns starts as a child since they, along with other varieties of wild greens, grew abundantly near a stream running through my parents’ peach-apricot orchard in the northern hills of India. These fiddlehead ferns were actually much thinner than most varieties available in a produce section of the local supermarket and were traditionally prepared either by parboiling with generous amount of ghee, garlic, ginger, salt and red pepper flakes, or without parboiling and braised in spicy yogurt or tomato-based sauce. Fiddlehead ferns are an acquired taste and are one of the seasonal greens found in early spring to late May here in New England but in India we had it right after the monsoon season.

1 pound fiddlehead ferns
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium-size onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger (optional)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1) Remove the stem ends from fiddlehead ferns, and discard. Place the fiddlehead ferns in a strainer under cold running water and wash thoroughly; drain.
2) Bring water to boil in a saucepan, add fiddlehead ferns and parboil for 25 to 30 seconds. Drain and set aside.
3) Heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add onion, stirring, until translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes.
4) Stir in garlic, ginger and turmeric, and cook for about 10 to 20 seconds. Add more oil if needed. Add fiddlehead ferns and stir to mix. Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
5) Cover and cook until fork-tender, no more than 6 to 7 minutes. This is one of the dishes you don’t want to overcook. Add lemon juice and a few drops of water, if necessary (or if you like crispy taste follow the same method until fork-tender except add about 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter and cook over the high heat without covering the skillet for about 1 minute).