“Yes, Please” or “Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns”
Fiddleheads or fiddlehead greens, the furled fronds of a young ferns foraged throughout New England and Quebec are the essence of spring, appearing for just a few weeks at farmers markets. Simply sautéed after blanching in salted water they taste like a cross between asparagus and green beans. Incidentally, they cook just like asparagus, too. Since their availability is so limited (they can’t be farmed and are extremely perishable) we make Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns to extend the yummy. So that’s exactly what we’re suggesting you do, too!
If canning intimidates you don’t be scurrd…it’s not that hard (check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information). With that said, you can still prepare these wonderful pickles without canning. Simply store your finished product in the refrigerator and eat within the month. Regardless of preparation method you should always wait at least a week to eat pickles to allow the flavors to fully develop, however. The following recipe uses a pound of fiddlehead ferns and yields about two pints.
• 1 lb fiddlehead ferns, long stems removed if necessary
• 1 gallon water + 4 tablespoons salt
• Prepared ice bath
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 cup water
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 garlic cloves, smashed
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
• 1 teaspoon dill seeds
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or pepperoncini
• 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
• 4 whole allspice berries
First things first, blanch the fiddlehead ferns. Wash the ferns, removing any brown papery bits. Bring the salt water to a boil and add the fiddlehead ferns. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Immediately plunge cooked ferns in the ice bath and drain. Shocking the ferns this way will prevent residual cooking and preserve their color.
Separately, boil the vinegar, water, salt and garlic. Fish out the garlic and remove from heat.
Divide the dry spices among the your canning jars or whatever else you’ll be storing your pickles in. Add enough fiddleheads to fill the jars, leaving 1/4-inch of space at the top. Next pour in the vinegar, again leaving 1/4-inch of space at the top. If you’re not canning you’re done – hurray! Otherwise prepare your water bath canner and process for 10 minutes.
Stir-Fried Cải Ngọt
Cải ngọt is the Vietnamese name for yu choy, a wonderful vegetable similar in appearance to Chinese broccoli (gai lan) but with slender stems that are incredibly tender and leaves that taste more like spinach than bitter Asian greens. I happen to love cải ngọt and prepare it very simply by stir-frying it with a bit of garlic and chili then flash steaming it with water or broth. If you cannot find cải ngọt, Chinese broccoli can be substituted though you need to discard the tough ends of the stems.
• 1 lb cải ngọt
• 2 tablespoons high smoke-point oil (e.g., vegetable or peanut oil)
• 1 teaspoon sesame oil
• 4 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 fresh Thai chili pepper, minced
• 1/3 cup water or broth
Heat the two oils in your largest sauté pan set over high heat. When the oil is hazy add the garlic and chili and stir until fragrant, just a few seconds. Next add the cải ngọt and try to fold the garlicky oil into the greens. A spatula works well for this. After about a minute add the water to the hot pan, give it a stir and place a lid over the pan. In quick bursts, move the pan back and forth over the burner to distribute the water and to get a good steam going. Allow the cải ngọt to steam for just a few minutes, lift the lid (be careful of the steam) and test a thick stem for doneness: it should still have some crunch but not be totally raw. Immediately transfer to a serving bowl.
Note: The boyfriend always asks how big to chop vegetables. My reply is always, “When you had something similar at a restaurant, what did it look like?” Think ‘bite-size’ but the key to a perfect stir-fry is uniform pieces. In the case of vegetables like cải ngọt or Chinese broccoli, cut stem pieces smaller than leafy pieces so they’re all done at the same time.
He’ll then ask how I know when the vegetables are done cooking. Simple: when in doubt, TASTE! There’s nothing wrong with a little QC in the kitchen.
8:25 PM EST
The Greatest Baking Show On Earth
Yes, this is a little off-brand for 500 Tasty Sandwiches but Caroline (the model) happens to be a good friend of ours and we’ll eat her cupcakes any day. Nós te amamos, Caroline!
This is the floor plan for 500 Tasty Sandwiches’ 213-year-old Sullivan County farmhouse test kitchen. Large…and completely impractical. The column to the left of the oven is where the old stove pipe went into and we assume the door leading to the back yard is not in its original location (the original wood burning stove would have blocked the entrance). There is a generous pantry but the counter space is miniscule. Towards the back of the kitchen there is a beautiful built-in featuring a pass-through to the great room.
Renovating the kitchen will be one of our first major non-DIY projects. We’ll likely replace the large bay window looking out to the side yard with a picture window to accommodate a butcher block-topped L-shaped counter, enabling us to install an apron sink on that side of the kitchen. Or maybe we’ll put in a large island built from reclaimed cabinetry. Our area of the Catskills doesn’t have natural gas heating and since Aga and Heartland ranges start at over $6000 we’ll stick with the basic electric range we have…for now.
We’re back from vacation. Ugh…we’re back from vacation. Anyway, we were hard at work at the Sullivan County farmhouse test kitchen and hope to share images and stories with you soon.
Simple Curried Couscous
Ain’t nobody got time for that! I hear you, Sweet Brown. I get it: not everyone likes to cook complicated meals…and even those who do don’t always have the time. That doesn’t mean you have to cry alone at night, eating Lunchables for dinner. With only seven ingredients, most of which you probably have – onion, olive oil, salt, couscous, canned tuna, apple, curry powder – Curried Couscous is still a satisfying and sophisticated dinner. Ready?
• 1 medium or half a large onion, diced
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cups pearl couscous
• 2 ¼ cups water
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon curry powder
• 1 pinch cayenne (optional)
• 5 oz (1 can) tuna
• 1 apple, peeled and diced
In a pot set over medium heat sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, add the salt and continue to cook until golden. Add the couscous and stir until mixture seems rather dry and a couscous begins to toast. Add the water and whisk in the curry powder and cayenne. Turn up the heat to high and once the water begins to boil remove the pot from the heat, cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the couscous with a spoon. Stir in the tuna and diced apple and serve warm or chilled. See, wasn’t that easy peasy!?