Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fiddlehead & Shrimp Linguine

The lil' curlicues popping up from the dun-brown crowns of awakening ferns are among my favorite signs of spring - namely, because I can eat them. When cooked-crisp, fiddleheads are toothsome and have a lightly grassy, asparagus-esque taste to them. A perfect spring vegetable! You might be able to find them at better farmers' markets or at specialty food stores, but it's always more enjoyable to search them out and collect them yourself! When foraging, make sure you're clipping from edible (most likely ostrich) ferns, and only taking fiddleheads which have not yet unfurled. Regard the picture below to get the right idea. Also, be a pal and don't deplete an entire plant - I usually only take one or two fiddleheads per fern.  In springs past I've simply sauteed them with a hint of butter and s&p as a side for meat, steamed them lightly or even thrown 'em raw into salads, but this time the coiled fronds reminded me of the shrimp I had in the freezer, cutely tucked in similar position.  So, I decided to add them both into tangles of pasta. A little side salad of young dandelion greens, also foraged, completed the springy supper.

Happy foraging!

Fiddlehead and Shrimp Linguine
Makes 1-2 servings

*4 oz linguine
*1 handful fiddlehead ferns, washed thoroughly in a couple changes of water (brown flecks all removed)
*6-8 medium shrimp, cleaned
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 tablespoon minced shallot
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1 pinch red pepper flakes
*2 tablespoons white wine
*1/2 teapsoon lemon zest
*Juice of 1/2 lemon
*Grated Parm-Reg

Set water on to boil for the pasta. Blanch the fiddleheads in another pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds and rinse with cold water. Set aside. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium and saute the shallot and garlic for 4-5 minutes, adding a pinch of red pepper flakes near the end. Bump the heat up a little and add the fiddleheads and shrimp; saute about 2 minutes per side. Add the wine and lemon juice to deglaze. Reduce heat, stir in the zest and simmer for a few minutes, seasoning to taste. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet, tossing well. Dish out and dust with Parm-Reg.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lentil Tacos

Not only did we come home from our vacation feeling like fatted calves, but we also came home broke. I typically lean on legumes for my go-to broke-food, so I grabbed at my brown lentil stash for dinner. Some whole-wheat tortillas and an avocado laying innocuously around the pantry led my thoughts to Mexican flavors. I'd never made lentil tacos before; other household half was dubious when I announced my intentions, but these turned out to be outstanding. I wouldn't belittle the spiced lentils by calling them a "meat substitute", because I would gladly make these tacos again with or without meat in the house.

1 cup of lentils makes a lot of filling as I found out, so you'll easily have lunch for the next day or two. Man, are lentils the greatest, or what?

Lentil Tacos
Makes about 6-8 servings

*1 cup brown lentils
*3 cups water
*2 bay leaves
*Cooking oil
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 onion, finely chopped
*1 teaspoon dried oregano
*2 teaspoons chili powder
*1 teaspoon ground cumin
*1/2 teaspoon paprika
*1/4 teaspoon cayenne
*1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
*1 chipotle in adobo, seeded and minced, plus a little extra adobo sauce
*About 1/2 cup beef stock (or vegetable stock, if you'd like to keep this veggie-friendly)

Rinse your lentils well, pick over for stones 'n such, and put them in a pot with the water (unsalted) and a couple bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a strong simmer. Cook the lentils for about 25--45 minutes or until they are tender, adding in more water if necessary during cooktime. I've found that older lentils take longer to cook than you might think! Strain and remove the bay leaves; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a wide skillet over medium heat, saute the onion in a little slick of oil for 8-9 minutes before throwing in the garlic. Saute a few minutes more. Add the spices and stir for another minute. Lower the heat slightly and add the lentils, the chipotle, and about 2 tablespoons of beef stock. Mash the lentils roughly for a few minutes, adding a little more beef stock to wetten the mix to desired consistancy. Season to taste with S&P, and then dish out into the tortilla or shell of your liking. I garnished mine with a slice of avocado, a squeeze of lime, shreds of smoked gouda, diced tomato and hot sauce, but feel free to dress yours in any way you see fit!

Hard taco shells or soft whole-wheat flour tortillas - both work equally well for tacos!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fennel & Celery Salad

Well, hello again! Finally disengaging from the vacation mode in which I've been coasting for nearly a month now. Montreal me manque, but after spending 6 days indulging in the most obsenely decadent fare this side of Greco-Roman bacchanalia, I'm in desperate need of a cleanse, a broom to the system. Other household half and I brought back a trunkful of fine, fine Québécois beer, maple products, a whole frozen duck (!), and other edible souviners, but for the time being I'm on a pretty stripped-down, heavy-on-the-green-stuff diet so as to shed the couple extra pounds I also brought back from over the border. Luckily, there are meals like this delicious Fennel & Celery Salad to make the diet not just palatable, but enjoyable. I've loved this combination ever since reading Mark Bittman's recipe for it a long while back, and make it frequently - it's simple, but the flavors marry brilliantly. Whether you're on a similar diet (summer's a'coming), or not, this'll go over well with your mouth.

Fennel & Celery Salad
Makes 2 servings

Adapted from Mark Bittman, recipe here

*1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, some fronds reserved and chopped
*3-4 celery ribs
*2 tablespoons EVOO
*1 tablespoon lemon juice, more to taste
*Mica-like shaves of Parm-Reg

Cut the fennel bulb in quarters and toss the outer layer if it's too tough or leathery. Remove the leafier parts and core from inside and discard. Use a mandoline to slice the fennel thinly into a bowl. Slice the celery into the bowl as well. I alternate between shaving down the length of a piece of stalk, and slicing thin crescents. Toss the celery, fennel and fennel fronds together; if the salad seems a little wet, I usually dry lightly with a paper towel before dishing out. Emulsify the lemon juice and EVOO, adding a big pinch of salt and pepper, and drizzle over each portion of the salad. Accent with flakes of parm, a spangling of pepper, and more fennel fronds.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

En Vacances...

Due to a recent spate of travel the blog has been neglected for the past few weeks, so I thought I'd check in to deliver a brief hello before heading up north to Montreal tomorrow (!). While I'm at it, here's a sunny, salty, tropical taste of my long weekend in Southern FL. I'll be back with more recipes in mid-April!