Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Rite of Spring

A rite of spring (a religious or other solemn ceremony or act) is a good term for how I feel about foraging wild things that usually only have a limited window of time to gather. Morel mushrooms, ramps, fiddle-head ferns all have this designation for me. I think that eating stuff you gather in the woods yourself is very soulful and an enriching experience. I gathered these fiddle-heads the other day while my 6 year old daughter gathered Dandelions for a bouquet. It was a beautiful hour spent together. These things are very tasty, you have about a week window to gather them before the mature, so don't miss it! I find these about 1/4 mile away from our farm growing into great fields. I will gorge myself on them while I can.

 I discovered this delicacy when I lived in NZ. The fern has a very special prominence in New Zealand, the silver fern is the symbol of my beloved "All Blacks" Rugby Team. They grow everywhere on the North Island. The first time I was served ferns was with a Maori gentleman who picked me up hitchhiking, brought me back to his families place and put me up for two days. I dined on ferns and Paua (abalone), mussels and kumara (sweet potatoes). It was a surreal experience indeed.

The way to harvest and prepare these ferns is simple. Cut them about two inches down from the point where the run straight. There is often a slight fuzz on the top of the fern, this can be easily rinsed off. The recipe I prepared follows.

Fiddle-Head Ferns

1 # of cleaned ferns
1 bunch of garlic chives (from our farm)
6 teeth of garlic (ours as well, fine mince)
1 medium yellow summer squash
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs. Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Technique: Saute the garlic briefly in the olive oil, add ferns and squash. Saute until soft (don't overcook!). Add vinegar and season. Cooking time is about 5 minutes.

I had some wonderful Tombo (Albacore) in this week at the shop, and thought this would complete a nice plate with the ferns. Here is the recipe for the Tombo.

Red Chile & Black Sesame Dusted Albacore

2- 4 oz Tombo steaks
2 Tbs. New Mexican Red Chile Powder
1 Tbs. Black sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

Technique: Combine all the spices in a shallow plate and mix well. Press the fish into the spices on both sides until well covered. Get a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan very hot. I used a comal, but not everyone has a comal. Lightly brush the hot pan with olive oil. Sear fish for about two minutes on each side. You want to serve this fish very medium rare. If you cook it through, it becomes chicken of the sea. Enjoy!

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