May 14, 2009

Fiddlehead Ferns

As soon as the fiddleheads appeared at the Farmer's market, I snatched some up, only to be at a loss as to what to do with them... Since I come from the Land of No Fiddleheads, this was my first foray into cooking these furled fern shoots. I did some research and found they can be cooked like any other green veggie (sauteed, blanched, and steamed), but I chose to adapt a recipe from Bon Appetit, substituting fiddleheads for sugar snap peas.

Update: as commenter Uke Mochi points out, evidence shows that fiddleheads should not be eaten raw, as they may cause illness similar to food poisoning. This article's sidebar further explains.

Orecchiette with Caramelized Onions, Sugar Snap Peas, and Ricotta Cheese
(Serves 4)

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 c. (packed) chopped onions
1 8 ounce package trimmed sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 8 ounce package orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta) or pasta shells
1/2 c. whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/4 c. torn fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 t. finely grated lemon peel

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions. Sauté until onions are pale golden, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; sauté onions until tender and deep golden, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer 3/4 cup sautéed onions to small bowl; reserve for frittata. Add peas to onions in skillet. Sauté until peas are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to onion mixture; stir over medium-high heat 30 seconds. Mix in ricotta, basil, and lemon peel, adding more cooking liquid to moisten as needed. Season with salt and pepper.