Monday 18 May 2015
Fiddleheads are in season for a short time right now and when prepared right they can be delicious. Fiddleheads are actually young ferns that are picked shortly after sprouting from the earth. The ferns start out wound up and furled. It's not until they reach a certain height that they unfurl into a frond. Fiddleheads are picked before this happens. Their furled up shape is what give them their name. Understandably they are only available for a period in the spring. They require a thorough rinse with cold water before cooking because dirt or grit can be stubborn to remove. The flavour and texture can be likened to broccoli and green beans but I find they make a nice alternative to asparagus as well.
They are fantastic in succotash which is a healthy and flavourful vegetable side dish. Succotash is one of the oldest dishes known to North America. It is originally a Native American staple which comprised of corn and lima beans, sometimes with the addition of squash. This dish was especially popular during the Great Depression as corn and lima beans were readily available and inexpensive at the time. Fortunately many of us live in an era where a variety of produce is abundant so other aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices can easily be added to upgrade this to a colourful, delicious and exciting treat. I used frozen corn and lima beans for this recipe but if you prepare this when corn is in season then I encourage you to get it fresh and boil it first. You could also use dried lima beans and rehydrate them in cold water overnight before using. Lima beans are one of those ingredients that gets a bad rep for being bland, boring or even gross. You could use any other type of bean you prefer, but just know that lima beans are a staple to traditional succotash. Both of my parents dislike lima beans so we never had them growing up. I remember trying them somewhere as a kid and not being too impressed either. It's funny because now as an adult I quite like them. So you never know!
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 Anaheim pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, diced
1 cup fiddleheads, rinsed and trimmed
1.5 cups corn kernels, frozen
1 cup lima beans, thawed if using frozen
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Small handful fresh parsley, chopped
10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Heat the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil when the butter has melted to keep it from burning. Swirl the pan and add the onion with a little salt and pepper. The butter and oil should be hot enough that the onion sizzles. White or yellow onion would be ideal for this recipe. I used 1/2 a red onion instead because I had one in my fridge, but it's your call.
Sautée the onion for about 5 minutes or until nice and softened. Then add the fiddleheads, red pepper, tomato and Anaheim pepper. The chili pepper is optional and you can use whatever other chili or chilies you prefer. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or so. The tomatoes will break down and release their water. You want the water to evaporate before moving on to the next step.
Then add the garlic and the zucchini. Another pinch of salt at this stage is recommended. Sautée for 2-3 minutes, do not let garlic burn.
To stop the frying process, add the chicken or vegetable stock. In a pinch you could simply use water. Over the remaining course of the recipe you may want to add a little more.
When the zucchini has softened, add the corn and the lima beans. Stir to combine and cook until both are heated through.
Add the parsley, thyme, cumin and paprika and stir in for the final 30-60 seconds of cooking. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as well. Since this recipe is 95% vegetables it can be quite bland if not seasoned properly.
Now you're ready to serve. Please use this recipe as a basic guide. If you prefer your vegetables a little firmer, don't cook for quite as long. If you prefer your veggies a little softer you may want to cook them a touch or two longer. It's all up to you.
The fiddleheads play an even hand in creating a great flavour, colour and texture profile. Aside from looking festive this dish is dense in minerals, vitamins, fibre and protein. The fresh herbs lift up the dishes while the smoky cumin and paprika ties everything happily together. For something so simple, it's hard to believe how delicious and satisfying it is. Succotash is great with meat, poultry or fish. I served mine aside some filleted black cod that I pan fried.
I hope this sounds like something you'd like to try. If you can't find fiddleheads then you can simply omit them but this is a great way to use them up if you get the chance. I made this batch for myself and inhaled it all within a 24 hours. That should give you a clear idea of how tasty this is. It's definitely a dish for veggie lovers, but who couldn't use extra veggies in their diet anyway, right?
Thank for stopping by!