Can I ask you a question? I’m not sure if you have an answer or not but I’m really trying to wrap my head around this. All I need to know is: where did our spring go? At one moment it was frigid and snowy, then frigid and rainy… and then sunny and 80 degrees. I don’t do well with extreme temperatures and, despite being fed up with the chilly, wet weather, I was not prepared to be slammed by such a shift.
It didn’t really hit me until we were on the Cape this weekend and I looked around the yard. Now, normally, the weather is a bit unpredictable this time of year. You never know if it’ll be one of those nasty, gloomy, sit in your house and watch movies all afternoon kind of days. Or it could be pleasant out… at least enough to not have to wear a long sleeved shirt. But this weekend was like no other. The birds were chirping, the rhododendron were in full bloom; people were boating and swimming and tanning on their decks. Again, I have to ask? How did I miss the shift between winter and summer?
And with this drastic climate change, I’ve somehow managed to completely neglect some of spring’s prime veggies. I never found time to cook with morels before the season came to an end and that has made me very sad. So I’ve been sure not to miss out on one of my very favorite spring treats: fiddleheads.
I can’t really tell you why I adore fiddlehead greens so much. There’s nothing about the flavor that really sticks out. But look at them, in all their curlicue glory! Their shape constantly reminds me of the books I used to read as a child; something out of Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
A few weeks ago, Eric and I were lucky enough to get a bag of fiddleheads in our CSA box. It was quite the pleasant surprise and as soon as I realized what they were, I immediately got to work thinking about what to do with them. I did my best to resist the urge to make a pasta dish, but, really, I couldn’t. It just seemed like the ideal pairing. Then the question became, what else to add.
When coming up with a recipe, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities. Sometimes all you need is some guidance. And, so, as I walked home from work one afternoon, I decided to stop off at our favorite local gourmet food store, American Provisions, for some inspiration. Their shelves were stocked with grilled baby artichokes and roasted red peppers and marinated olives. And then I found the ingredient I was looking for: anchovies. Yes, anchovies. Not “eww,” not “gross.” Oily, briny, with that wonderful fishy undertone.
As soon as I returned home with the groceries, I threw a pot of water on the stove for the pasta, sauteed the fiddleheads with some onion for a couple of minutes, at the same time preparing the remaining ingredients that would bring the dish together: fresh feta, lemon zest, chopped mint. And those anchovies.
It was not heavy, nor boring, but bright and bold. A quick spring pasta dish that was thrown together in 20 minutes and can be done with any of your favorite seasonal veggies (try some fresh sweet peas or some of that marvelous asparagus that’s shown up at the markets).
Note: There are reports by health officials that say some fiddleheads contain natural toxins that can cause GI sicknesses. These reports also say to never eat them raw and to boil them for 15 minutes or steam for 10-12 mintues. Personally, I’ve never done this and I haven’t had any issues. But this is me and you should certainly prepare them however you feel most comfortable.
1 lb pasta, preferably something corkscrew-shaped, like rotini
1 yellow onion, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fiddleheads, washed well
3 tablespoons butter
fresh mint leaves, chopped
4 anchovy fillets, cut into thirds
zest of a lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box.
While this is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet set to medium heat. Add the onions and stir, cooking for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and fiddleheads, season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, set pan to the side.
Drain the pasta and toss with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl.
Top the pasta with the cooked fiddleheads and onions, feta cheese, anchovies, chopped mint, and lemon zest. Serve hot or cold.