I got this recipe from French Women for All Seasons and have only been waiting for fiddleheads to appear in the market to make it. We were in luck last Saturday while revisiting the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. There was a huge pile of fiddleheads at the charming mushroom shop inside the ferry terminal.
I’d never actually cooked with these before so had to trust Mireille Guiliano on this. They’re kind of expensive for a vegetable; something like $17 or more a pound, so I wanted the dish to turn out well. To her, they’re a signal of springtime. Certainly I was channeling Spring last week after the rain had stopped and we had several sunny mild February days while the East Coast was being socked in with feet of snow.
The fresh fiddleheads had a loamy smell that reminded me of the woods, or perhaps like parts of the Golden Gate Park near those tiny lakes on the north side. Frankly, as delightful as the smell was, it put me off. I don’t ever associate that with food.
The dish is easy to make and sort of like Hegui’s artichoke recipe. I actually served it with the artichokes as well as sautéed sweet pea shoots and mesculin salad. We complemented it with a lovely 2007 red Côtes du Rhône.
Guiliano uses pancetta in her recipe. I left it out but struggled to come up with something flavorful as an alternative. I’d considered anchovies but John and Hegui both rejected the idea. I settled on olives but if I make it again I might add mushrooms and even a bit of blue cheese or cream.
Spaghetti with Fiddlehead Ferns
2 cups fresh fiddleheads
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Juice from half a lemon
Kosher salt to taste
Crushed red and black pepper to taste
4 tbsp olive oil or more
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
15 kalamata olives, in halves
Grated parmesan cheese to taste
1 package spaghetti or similar long pasta
Rinse fiddleheads thoroughly. Remove ends if they’re not freshly cut. Steam for six minutes to cook then immerse in cold water to blanch.
Prepare pasta per package directions.
While pasta is cooking, add olive oil and garlic to a hot skillet. Sauté for a minute then toss in drained fiddleheads. Add salt, red and black peppers and lemon juice. Cook for five to 10 minutes until tender. Add olives and parsley. Toss with pasta and cheese. I sprinkled a bit more crushed red pepper and drizzled a bit of finishing olive oil over the dish for presentation.
Hegui liked it a lot but thought that the color had gone from the fiddleheads. They were a bit washed out. As an alternative he suggests skipping the lemon juice to keep the green color.