Oh Spring -- you fickle, fading season. One minute you are all blossoms and sweet scents. The next, cold temperatures and windy evenings. But through all your swift changes, there is a steady beat. From April to May you transform the canvas from a light brown palette, to bright flower hues, finally landing on green, green, green.
But it does not feel like this will happen in April. Much like watching a pot boil, if you stare at the still-cold ground in spring looking for green shoots, none will appear. In the days that pass between sun and rain, little changes are unfolding too slow for our eyes to spot. And by late May, green springs up, as if from nowhere.
Several weeks ago I spent a Sunday in the woods looking for fiddleheads. I was so enamoured with early May in Massachusetts I convinced myself it was actually Saturday. As we all know, Saturday is an infinitely preferable day to Sunday. Nothing lies before you but sweet, sweet weekend. So what if you spend the day lazily baking, reading or walking about the woods? There is no consequence. There's another day just waiting for you. This slight of mind allowed me to drink the the springtime air without worrying about deadlines. It was a necessary, if imaginary, respite.
I had never been fiddlehead hunting before, and unfortunately it was not the best year for the excursion. Maybe because there wasn't much rain, or perhaps because of all the snow in New England this year, they just weren't popping up as steadily as they should be. After an hour of false starts of cruel fiddlehead-look-alikes (see the wooly-fellow above right), we finally started to strike with some regularity. They were young and skinny specimens, but they would do. We managed to collect enough for a small meal. I schemed ideas for the kitchen on the drive back home.
Fiddleheads have a mild, earthy flavor, so I didn't want to overwhelm them with a heavy sauce or seasoning. Instead, I went with a butter sauce, sautéed shallots, some meyer lemon and a dab of ricotta on top. It was a divine pasta feast in early May.
(Note: to cook and clean wild fiddleheads, you need to boil them in water and remove their brow papery skin. If you buy them at the grocery store, this first step is already done, but you still need to boil them for 5-10 minutes to cook.)
Happy Springtime hunting!