Monday, June 3, 2013

Three Spring Recipes: Fiddleheads, Pea Shoots and Lambs Quarters

Sunday was a day of looking at the spring things gathering in the fridge and figuring out what to do with them. I love spring produce because it is the first taste of real greens. They tend to be more intense and bitter than those early summer sprouts.

After asparagus and rhubarb, the next harbingers are greens such as lambs quarters and dandelion greens. Fun fact, pissenlit is one translation for dandelions in French. That means wet the bed for those who skipped a couple of classes too many. I didn't bother with dandelion this year but did up a little weed and feed for my kids.

Potatoes with Lambs Quarters and Sausage
Grab some lambs quarters from your lawn or backyard. Strip away stems and leave the leaves. Treat like spinach and submerge in water to ensure to get all the dirt out. Meanwhile, boil some potatoes.
While you are waiting for the potatoes to boil, another fun fact. Lambs quarters are related to quinoa, rhubarb, spinach and a bunch of other greens with oxalic acid. If you taste the green raw, you will get this fuzzy itch at the back of your throat. If you have kidney stones or disease or just worried in general, avoid. Now that the potatoes have boiled and you have finished searching the internet to see if you are going to die from this recipe, we are ready to go to the next step.
Drain the potatoes. Cook some dried sausage over a medium-low heat. I used mild Hungarian but any semi-dry sausage with a good amount of fat will work such as chorizo, pepperoni, or salami. When fat is rendered and sausage is browned, remove sausage from pan. Add a little onion. Some oil may be required at this point. Cook until translucent. Add some potatoes. Cook until potatoes start to break down. Add greens. Cook until wilted and bright green. Add in sausage. Season to complement meat. Serve.
I used Mrs. Dash because someone gave me it and it has a lot of celery seed. The dish lacked salt so I added smoked salt and a little black pepper to add a bit of edge. Kids loved the idea of eating weeds.

Wilted Pea Shoot Salad
Take some quantity of pea shoots. Rinse them off if you have to and place in the salad bowl. If you don't have a salad bowl, then I guess there is no salad for you. On medium-low heat take some cured meat with a good amount of fat and render. (That just mean cook it until the fat is in the pan. Meat will start to brown and crisp when it comes to that time). Pour meat with fat over sprouts and toss. Taste and add acid if you wish. Orange, lemon, lime, vinegar, whatever. My favourite cured meats to use for this are bacon, dry sausages or ham. Ham and pea is a classic pairing and so works really well especially if go all Italian with some prosciutto or something like that. 
There is a pattern here. I like my greens with a little fat and have no problems if that fat comes from an animal. In many ways, the idea of the last pieces of cured meat that have made it through the winter combine with the first greens of the spring makes me happy to look forward to what is to come and appreciate the finality of the winter.

This last salad that we had on Sunday was made with fiddleheads and a spicy version of the Hungarian sausage. I cut the sausage into coins to mimic the shape of the fiddleheads. My one kid who likes spicy food had seconds while the one with the more delicate sensibilities was fine with the quarter serving I gave him for tasting.

Fiddlehead Sausage Salad
Clean your fiddleheads removing brown bits and ends. This is another vegetable that likes a good bath. Set it in water and try to get out any grit or sand. Boil in salted water using about the same amount of salt as you would use for pasta. Add a squirt or two of lemon juice. It is only to make sure that the greens don't turn to brown. Vinegar would work too. Boil for seven to ten minutes. The ferns, you did know they were ferns, right, will have the same texture as asparagus when ready. Drain. In a fry pan (or saute if you want to get technical), on medium-low heat, add either fresh or dried sausage cut into coin shapes. Cook until done or in the case of dry sausage, finished rendering. Remove sausage bits. Add the drained (I said it twice because water will make it splatter big time) fiddleheads. Once coated and warmed through again, add the sausage. Turn into a serving bowl and serve. 
Why do recipes say that? I mean it is up to you to decide if you are using a serving bowl. What if you hate doing up the dishes? Maybe you are single? Anyways. And Serve. I have spent all this time following this recipe just to have the food sit there. Yup. Not eating it. Sheesh.

Anyways, any of these recipes could easily become a How to Read a Recipe post. The main thing to remember is that salads require some fat to dress the greens. Greens can be loosely interpreted to be such things as green beans, asparagus, endive, any green and of course, something you find on your front lawn. The more bitter the green, the more likely that a quick blanch will remove some of the bitterness and make it more palatable. Have fun with your lawn or your back yard this spring.

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