Thursday, April 15, 2010

Whole Wheat Pasta with Fiddleheads and Ramps

Whole Wheat Pasta with Fiddleheads and Ramps

Back when I first started food blogging, I used to race home, cook something, and then post the recipe right away. Obviously times have changed and it takes me much longer (sometimes a month longer!) to post the recipes I've made. However, last night I made an incredible and simple dinner that just couldn't wait to be shared. I first heard about ramps a little over two years ago when I first discovered recipe blogs. They dominated the pages of TasteSpotting and I would search my farmers market for them to no avail. I soon discovered ramps are pretty much indigenous to the east coast. However, over the last couple of years, ramps are making appearances at some of the west coast markets. Around the same time, I also heard of fiddleheads and learned that they too were mostly an east coast fave.

Now, I know I am always boasting about what great produce we have in southern California and the produce I feature is all supposed to be local, but I have been ACHING to try these non-regional favorites for ages so I finally bite the bullet yesterday and paid extraordinary prices for these non-local treats...luckily, my investment paid off. Fiddleheads are the unfurled fron of a fern (say that ten times fast). When they are in this young tender state, they resemble a cross between green beans and brussels sprouts. In other words, totally delicious. Apparently you are supposed to boil them twice before cooking, but I took a walk on the wild side and simply sauteed them. Ramps are baby leeks that have an oniony, garlicky, and peppery bite all in one. By cooking these greens simply in some garlic and olive oil, I let the natural flavors shine through and the lemon brought out a burst of freshness that made this dish totally appealing. It doesn't take long to cook so even if you get home a little late like I tend to do, you can have this on the table in no time. It's not pictured here, but a healthy heaping of grated Parmesan certainly adds a nutty, saltiness to this dish that compliments the greens, lemon, and pasta well. I'm very happy that my first experience with these ingredients was a delight, and the only change I would make to this in the future is to put an egg on it. Will I pay these insane prices for the ingredients next time? Probably not, but at least I got a good fix. I guess now, I just have to move to the north east...or not.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Fiddleheads and Ramps

Makes 2 servings

6 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1-2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 ounces ramps, whites and greens separated
4 ounces fiddlehead ferns, trimmed
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the fiddleheads and cook for 2-3 minutes until they have firmed up and turned bright green. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Add the whites of the ramps and cook for another minute then add the greens and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the greens have wilted. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the pasta water if necessary. Toss the pasta with the fiddleheads and ramps, adding a bit of the pasta water if the mixture is too dry. Check the seasonings and adjust as necessary. Top with the lemon zest and freshly grated Parmesan if desired.

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Mary Bergfeld said...

You've created a lovely and original dish. I found your blog by chance but having found you I'll be back often. I really like what you are doing here. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Erica said...

:) HI! How are you? Great dish. I really want to try fiddlehead they taste super green? I think I will love them. Glad you got to try something new- always fun!

Jenn said...

Nice. You know I've never tried fiddleheads. They always looked funny to me for some reason, but I always her that they're pretty good. I'll have to eventually give them a try. Hopefully the farmers market will have some.

Cooking with tien said...

Can I reference your blog for the recipe? I just got some fiddle head ferns to grow in my garden and the ramps came up from last year. Thanks in advance, Tien

Esi said...

Erica, I'm doing alright. always busy. Fiddleheads have a consistency of green beans, but taste like mild brussels sprouts.

Tien, go ahead

Diana said...

I was desperate to find ramps last year when I was making a risotto dish, but never did find them. Sadness. Love the addition of parm here - like bacon, cheese makes everything better. :)

vanillasugarblog said...

boil twice? i wonder why? get all the dirt out perhaps? i finally had deep fried fiddleheads and they were good, but then again everything fried is good right? so I might like to be like you and sautee them. but $20 a pound I dunno, I bet they are more out here.

La Bella Cooks said...

California in general just has amazing produce year around but I am glad you were able to find ramps. This sounds like a great dish and very original.

À LA GRAHAM said...

I love this! I can't believe I have never heard of either of these and now I am the one who so desperately wants to try them...what's a midwest girl to do!?

Sharon said...

Seems weird to call a fern cute, but I must say, those fiddleheads are pretty darn cute. I've never tried one, but this is quite the inspiring post!

Esi said...

Diana, both of these ingredients have such a short seasons so they are only at stores/farmers markets for a few weeks. I guess that's part of the appeal.

Dawn, I think it's to get rid of the dirt and there is some enzyme that people fear can cause sickness. I feel fine though! :)

Graham, check out Whole Foods immediately...or visit the north east early next spring :)

Sharon, I agree, fiddleheads are so weird and cute looking!

Lyd said...

I've never heard of boiling them twice before cooking and I'm an east coaster! I've always sauteed them fresh for pastas and stir fries. If you can find them frozen out west then a good way to use frozen fiddles is in a creamy soup, similar to a creamy asparagus or broccoli soup. Most of the time I steam or boil fiddles to have alongside a nice fresh spring atlantic salmon.

shaz said...

Those fiddleheads look so cool! What a great dish you've come up with Esi. In Malaysia, we sometimes fry the fern shoots with a spicy chilli "sambal" (sauce) and garlic. Or blanch it as a side vegetable. I don't think I've seen ramps though.

Unknown said...

ooh, i've seen fiddleheads, but have been a little intimidated :) after your description i think i'll have to! you can just come for a visit, you don't have to move here ;)

Kerstin said...

Talk about the perfect spring dish! I've never tried fiddleheads before but you've inspired me :)

Andrea said...

Oh god I am so annoyed at you California people right now! You already have fiddleheads and ramps?! I'm still wallowing in potatoes and root veggies. I need to move. I love your creativity, by the way. This is really beautiful.

The Food Librarian said...

Wow! You got ramps. I was beginning to think they were like unicorns. :) This looks great.

Chef Fresco said...

Oh how interesting! We are using fiddleheads in our wedding - but in the flowers, not in the food :) I didn't realize they were actually tasty! Maybe I'll have to save them all and make a dish :)

Christina said...

My husband bought both ramps and fiddleheads this weekend, and I'm trying to figure out hat to make with them tonight. I might just have to try this--it looks greats!