Where the wild things are – Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami

Once in awhile someone asks me if I’ve read Nostromo by Joseph Conrad.  My response is that I’m saving certain novels for my twilight years–Nostromo, Vanity Fair  and the complete works of Stendahl, to name a few.  But when it comes to food, everything is fair game now.  No treats held back for my dotage.  In the last year I’ve had the chance to sample lampascioni (edible hyacinth bulbs from Puglia) and bottarga (the dried roe sac of mullet, grated over pasta).  Less rare, but still wonderful, I’ve also had access to fiddleheads and ramps.  I’ve eaten fiddleheads many times, but while I’d heard of ramps, until recently I’d never laid eyes on them.  All of these things share a common quality of wildness, which means they haven’t had the flavor or nutrients bred out of them.  This past week, while foraging in Whole Foods, I encountered my first ramps in situ, that is, sitting in the produce section.  I rejoiced.  I purchased a dozen and brought them home.  I could finally make that ramp butter recipe I’d been carting around for years.  However, when the Hakurei turnips failed to show for our blogging session this past Thursday, Jody peered in the fridge, saw my ramps and invoked imminent domain – Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami.  Forager emptor.  

The earthy flavor of fiddleheads isn’t to everyone’s liking, but they do grow on you and they take well to assertive fats, which is why you see them paired so often with bacon, guanciale or dark meat fowl like duck.  If you’ve ever taste a commercial onion and thought that there wasn’t much there except a single sharp note, then you’re going to love ramps. Ramps have a complex pungency pungency that includes elements of leeks, garlic and onions.   Experienced foragers claim to be able to smell them in the woods when they arrive in the spring.  They can be used raw or cooked, both the bulb and the leafy green parts, although they’re more fibrous than a spring onion, especially the stalk.  Some ramp butter recipes suggest blanching them for 30 seconds, then plunging them into ice water before using them.  Others, like the one in the link, just forge ahead with them raw.  Regardless of your preference, be sure to trim the roots off and give them a thorough cleaning to remove any grit.

We tend to make treats like ramps and fiddlehead the center of attention, which means we either eat them as a first course, or make them the centerpiece of light dinner or lunch, with some good cheese or a salad.  I’m going out now to buy some more.  You know, for the ramp butter.  Enjoy.  Ken

A NOTE ON THE NEW THEME: What?!  You didn’t notice?  I know, I know, it’s big and gaudy.  We’re still at the first-date stage, still a bit awkward and unwieldy, but over the next couple of months as I begin to get a handle on typefaces and photo-sizing in a new environment our relationship will doubtlessly morph into a dazzling visual panorama of Jody’s cooking.  In any event, that’s the plan.  Activating the theme has wreaked havoc on the display of previous posts, making some of the photos overlap, inserting bizarre, unrequested changes of font, etc.  I will, eventually work my back through our entire oeuvre.  Until then, please be patient.  Thanks.  

Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami-2

Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces fiddleheads
  • 5 ramps (or 5 scallions)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 0unces salami, such as Sopressata, cut into ¼-inch strips
  • 4 slices rustic brown bread, toasted
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Trim the fiddleheads of brown ends and soak in water.  Repeat with fresh water 2 times.  The idea is to remove all the brown papery stuff that’s intwined in the scroll of the fiddlehead.
  2. Trim the ends off the ramps and swish them in a bowl of water the same way you would leeks to remove any grit.  Pat dry and slice everything crosswise ¼-inch thick, including the leaves.  (If using scallions, use white and green parts.)
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the fiddleheads, and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.  You must cook the fiddleheads until they’re tender.  A raw or undercooked fiddlehead can cause an upset stomach.  Drain, (the blanching water will be a sort of copper color) and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain and pat dry.
  4. Heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Cook until lightly brown, add the ramps or scallions and cook 2 minutes.  Add the fiddleheads and cook 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the lemon juice and salami and toss a few times.
  5. Set the toasted bread on plates and drizzle with olive oil.  Top with the fiddleheads.

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Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami-15

Jody Notes:  

Garum Factory recipes are usually tested at least twice, but in this post, I was winging it.  I made the mistake of waiting until the morning we were supposed to blog before going shopping, never a good idea.   When I discovered that Hakurei turnips weren’t to had for love or money, I started to feel apprehensive.  What were we going to do?   Then I saw them – local fiddleheads!  I grabbed a bagful.  Ken’s ramps were a serendipitous discovery at home – I appropriated them.  Thank God no one had eaten the Sopressata!   I love how this recipe turned out and if I were going to do it again, I’d use twice as many ramps.   It’s so Italian in its simplicity, and so French in its use of butter. 

Click on something to see it with a little more detail.  Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.

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35 thoughts

  1. la décoration de votre blog a changé !… waouhhh !… sinon, j’aime beaucoup les photos de cette recette, mais je ne connais pas les ” fiddleheads”… qu’est-ce que c’est ?… encore jamais vu !… où peut-on les trouver et les acheter ?…

      • Salut, Lydie–D’abord, “…woauhhh!” =” wow!”? Ou non? (C’est bien or pas?) Je suis heureux que vous avez trouvé des fougères jeunes (aucune idée comme on dit “fiddleheads” – “têtes de violons”? – ils n’existent pas dans mon dictionnaire). MAIS, il faut faire attention! Quant à moi, je n’aurais jamais les ramasser dans le forêt sans être accompagné par un expert, justement comme des champignons sauvages. Il y des espèces qui sont vénéneux. Malgré tous, si vous les trouvez dans un supermarché bio (comme Whole Foods, ici, par example) ou dans un marché aux fermiers (farmers market), vous pouvez les essayer. Ils sont vraiment délicieux. Merci pour votre commentaire. Ciao. Ken

      • Oops, j’ai oubilé de vous dire: les deux sont bon pour santé. Les ramps (poireaux sauvages?), on pêut les manger crus (bien que les tiges sont un peu fibreux). Mais les fiddleheads, c’est tout à fait un histoire different – if faut les cuisiner, autrement ils vous donneront un mal à l’estomac. Ken

      • merci pour toutes ces explications !…

        tout d’abord, le wow est un bon wow !…

        sinon, pour les “fiddleheads” (je crois que l’on dit “crosses de fougères” en français…), je n’irai pas les chercher seule en forêt… j’essayerai d’en trouver et d’en acheter dans un magasin bio pour goûter au moins une fois !

        merci et bonne soirée !

  2. I have never tried fiddle heads or ramps. I don’t even know if they are around here, but the recipe sounds amazing. ps…your new look looks great!!!

    • Thank you, Miss P. If you have wild ferns, you have fiddleheads. However, as I pointed out to Lydie, above, you shouldn’t gather them yourself unless you know what you’re doing. Some are poisonous. Better to go with an experienced forager or buy them at the market. Here, in the spring, you even see them at regular supermarkets with an upmarket produce section. Ramps are another story. I’m told they’re a variety of wild leek (as distinct from a wild onion), and they’re to be found in swampy areas. I prefer to wait until they make a rare appearance at a farmers market or in a supermarket that carries foraged products (like the occasional Whole Foods, here). I’m sure there must be an equivalent wild leek in your part of the world. Let me know if you find anything out. Good luck. Ken (Thanks for liking the new theme.)

  3. Ramps grow like dandelions in our yards here in West Marin. Let me know when you are ramping up another post & I will ship (my yard waste?!)

  4. I’ve never tried fiddleheads, Ken, and haven’t seen them in any of the shops. I was lucky to find ramps this year — at my fishmonger, of all places. Fiddleheads have always intrigued me, though. I didn’t realize that WHole Foods would have them. I need to get to Whole Foods more frequently during early Spring to take advantage. I like what you’ve done to the place, too. It looks great. By the way, I’ve got some bottarga that I’m saving for my next trip home. This oughta suprise Zia. :)

    • I found a fisherman in Florida who was selling it direct, instead of through a middleman so it was considerably less expensive than usual. We’ve been debating doing post about it–whether it’s too obscure, too rarified. We’ll see. Ken

  5. Big pictures to drown in, to go with the big and ballsy ingredients. The theme is very ‘pow!’ and I like it. Every week I feel as if I’m in a really fun lecture (and I’ve never been in one of those before). The fiddleheads look extraordinary, like green sea horses. I saw some once when I was gardening in a more exotic locale than our patio, and wondered about them. I am wondering no more. Beautiful.

    • Sophie–I’m glad you enjoyed the post, but please don’t pick the fiddleheads growing wild in your garden–they may be one of the edible varieties, but they may also be not. Buy them from an experienced forager, a farmers market, or in one of those groovy organic markets that sells foraged items, like chanterelles. Thanks for your generous assessment of the new theme. It does make me pay more attention to the photographs since every little detail is now exposed. Ken

  6. Like the new format Ken. Pow! Right in yer face. My only crit is the san serif type used for comments is a bit “meh”. But as you state, it is a work in progress and will evolve. Nice job.
    DK

  7. I make websites & do graphic design for a living, and visually your work is stunning. I know how hard it is to get this kind of imagery. I’m most impressed. And of course the food . . .

    • Thanks for praise. This next week things should calm down a bit (visually speaking), so readers don’t feel quite so assaulted. Week by week I’m working the kinks out–time to hire one of my kid’s friends for some quick and dirty CCS coding. :-) When we eventually take the sight to self-hosting we’ll probably hire a web designer and rebuild from the ground up, but that’s down the road. Ken

  8. I’ve been wanting Y!C! to try a recipe with ramps, maybe this will encourage him. Those ferns are so beautiful. I want to try them so I can photograph them as beautifully as you have. Very nice.

    • Thanks, Karen. Fiddleheads are great, but you have to think harder if you want to deviate from the classic combinations (there’s a reason why they’re classic). Ramps are more versatile. Since this post we had them raw in salads, caramelized as part of a pasta sauce, and stir-fried with cucumbers, fish sauce and Thai bird peppers as a kind of dipping sauce for grilled salmon and baby bok choy. I would think the woods (and consequently, the stores) in your part of the world would be running amok with both this time of year. Ken

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