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Meatless Monday Recipe: Penne with Fiddleheads and Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette

5/2/2011 9:08:43 AM

Tags: Meatless Monday, fiddlehead ferns, fiddlehead fern recipe, fiddlehead fern pasta, spring pasta recipe, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailMost of the world’s 12,000 fern species emerge in spring from an underground rhizome as a tightly coiled frond known as a fiddlehead. Of those, only the ostrich fern—which thrives from Virginia to Newfoundland and throughout the northern United States—is safe to eat. These crunchy, tender stalks--which taste like a combination of asparagus, spinach and wild mushrooms—are one of spring’s most fabulous and fleeting gifts. If you spot them in your market or local woods, grab them while you can.

Fiddleheads start popping up in April and May, when the shade bushes are in bloom. Choose firm, bright green, tightly coiled heads. (Smaller heads are mildest and most tender.) They’re best when prepared right before eating. Remove the light brown papery scales by rubbing the heads lightly between your hands or tossing them in a tightly closed paper bag. Rinse them in cold water, then steam for 15 minutes or simmer in lightly salted water, covered, for 10 minutes or until tender. Adding 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice to the cooking or steaming water mellows the taste.

Use your fiddleheads to make this fresh spring pasta recipe, which chef and herbalist Pat Crocker developed for the Herb Companion.

Penne and Fiddleheads with Lemon and Chive Vinaigrette 

Serves 6 

2 pounds fresh penne
3 quarts water
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound fiddleheads, cleaned, trimmed, and steamed until tender
1 bunch tender dandelion leaves, stemmed and sliced crosswise
1 bunch wild leek leaves, sliced crosswise
1 bunch French sorrel, sliced crosswise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon Vinaigrette
Seasoned Bread Crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, sauté garlic in oil in a large Dutch oven until it’s light brown. Stir in the fiddleheads and sliced greens and sauté about 2 minutes or until wilted.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it and return it to the same pot. Toss with the greens, vinaigrette and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with seasoned bread crumbs.

Lemon Vinaigrette 

5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh chopped lemon balm

Combine all ingredients in a jar with lid or small bowl. Set aside. Shake well before using.

Seasoned Bread Crumbs 

2 cups fresh bread crumbs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon balm
1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon sage
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté bread crumbs in oil, stirring, for 3 minutes or until crisp and golden. Transfer to a bowl and toss with cheese, herbs, and salt. Cover and set aside or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before using.

fiddlehead penne 

 Fiddlehead ferns and tangy greens make a vibrant spring pasta. Photo by Joe Coca

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