These curlicue-shaped fiddlehead greens are a specialty of the forest. They are actually fern fronds. Fiddleheads have such a short season since they're picked before the ferns have a chance to unfurl their fronds. They're definitely a specialty that you'll only see sold in farmers' markets and served in restaurants as a special dish of the evening. Rather expensive, fiddleheads are still worth buying, because a little does go a long way. Just a handful can add interest to salads or side dishes.
Fiddleheads are just plain fun to look at. Their flavor is like that of asparagus or green beans, very fresh and crisp if cooked just right. It is recommended that fiddleheads be cooked for about 10 to 15 minutes to kill any toxins, but I've never had a problem with them cooked for a shorter amount of time. Before cooking, I like to trim any brown area from the stem and soak the fiddleheads in a few changes of water. Then just boil or steam them until tender. Shock in ice water to preserve the bright green color. The fronds can then be used in salads or sauteed with onions or garlic for simple side dish.
For this salad, I serve the fiddleheads mixed with tender spring greens. For a unique dressing, I toss the greens in a creamy feta dressing. Rather than topping the salad with feta crumbles, here the cheese is incorporated into the dressing. It's just the right blend of creamy, salty, and tangy. A touch of honey rounds out the flavors with sweetness. It's a Mediterranean spin on salad, perfect as a refreshing appetizer to whet the appetite.
Spring Greens and Fiddlehead Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon honey
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces mixed baby greens
4 ounces fiddleheads, boiled and chilled
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
In a large bowl, combine shallot, vinegar, feta, olive oil, mayonnaise, and honey. Mash the feta into the mixture and whisk until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Add greens and fiddleheads and toss to coat. Divide among 4 plates and top each with walnuts. Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer or side dish.