05 July 2010

Mmm...Canada: Roasted Fiddleheads

When I was six years old I took violin lessons. My teacher's name was "Mr. T" (shortened because his surname was long and hard to pronounce...I easily relate). He was old. Like 30 or maybe 35. He had a Tom Selleck-like mustache and the whole 1970s groovy thing happening...or at least he tried to.

Violin just wasn't my thing. I couldn't get the fingering right and even at that young age I knew drawing a bow across my instrument's strings made sounds akin to squalking turkey buzzard stepping on a set of bagpipes than an A, D or even G#.

I was awful. My fingers hurt. My ears hurt. I couldn't hold the neck correctly. My fingering was never right. I always got a tummy ache on lesson day. After a few months of this, my Dear Little Cardamummy let me quit and returned my instrument. I never saw Mr. T again.

It wasn't the end of my music education--I went on to play several other instruments (badly): piano, flute, harp and voice. At some point I'll pick up the piano again...and I have a hankering to learn the cello.

A couple of decades later, when I heard of a Maritime delicacy called "fiddleheads" my mind immediately went to Mr. T and that poor violin. Luckly, I've had better luck with the vegetables than the instrument.

Fiddleheads are the tightly curled tips of the ostrich or cinnamon fern, and is a spring delight. The violin-scroll like vegetable tastes like a cross between asparagus and broccoli.

They fall within the "not quite death defying" food family. In the 1990s there were several food poisoning cases where fiddleheads were involved.Even though the exact cause wasn't identified, it's believed that the ferns have a toxin which is killed with heat. Health Canada recommends the curled greens be thoroughly washed in several changes of cold water and boiled for 15 minutes or steamed for 10-12 minutes.

I've had them boiled and steamed, each time served with a melting pat of butter and a bit of salt and pepper. My favourite way of having fiddleheads, like asparagus, is to roast them in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper and serve them drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

I pity the fool who doesn't try fiddleheads.

Roasted fiddleheads with balsamic vinegar and parmesan

Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese, grated

Set the oven to 190C/375F. Lightly oil a baking tray.

Toss the fiddleheads in a bit of oil and scatter them on the prepared tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-30 minutes or until done

Tumble onto a serving dish and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with parmesan.



I'm a quill for hire!

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Kalyn Denny said...

I've been wanting to try fiddleheads for a long time now (but I've never seen them here, not even once!) Roasting them sounds like a great idea.

Beckerbee said...

I live in Nova Scotia. Fiddleheads are awesome. You just fry them up in butter. My neighbour collects them in the woods. I also like garlic scapes. Very delicious too!