May 17, 2011

In Season: Orrechiette with Fiddleheads, Wild Ramps and Spot Prawns

Although it's been wet, rainy and just too darn cold for spring to feel like it's really here, it hasn't stopped all the beautiful green things from breaking ground. At last week's farmers' market, amongst the cold cellar apples and farm fresh eggs, there was spring bounty to be had: asparagus big and fat and firm, sandy ends still damp; fiddlehead ferns, tightly coiled and emerald green; and that most fleeting and prized of spring greens: wild ramps, the leek's kissing cousin.

Like all things fresh and green, simple is best: a steam, a sauté, the earthy flavours enhanced and set off by doing less with more. For a rainy and chilly Saturday night dinner, nothing could be simpler than this pasta dish: hearty enough to stave off the cold and made deliciously seasonal with those wonderful greens. But hurry…summer is almost here, and those wild green things that are spring’s harbingers will once again disappear.

Orrechiette with Fiddleheads, Wild Ramps and Spot Prawns
serves two

When I was searching for a recipe to use my greens, a quick internet search led me to one of my favourite blogs: Marc Matsumoto’s No Recipes, with fabulous simple-to-make recipes and even better photography. His take on this pasta dish calls for lots of freshly grated cheese. Instead, I chose to use wild spot prawns and give the dish a bright briny flavour, perfect to complement the deep green of fiddleheads and wild ramps, and added some of my house cured pancetta for extra complexity.

1 c fiddleheads, cleaned thoroughly
8 oz orecchiette pasta
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp
2  oz fresh pancetta, diced
½ lb. wild ramps, white and pink parts only, chopped
10 spot prawns, shelled and deveined
½-1 cup good quality tomato sauce (the thicker the sauce, the less you should use)

Be sure to seek out distinctive - and distinctively flavoured - spot prawns for a real taste of the sea.  We get ours from Fisherfolk

1.  Rinse fiddleheads thoroughly in cold water and trim any brown ends.  In a medium pot, steam until tender-crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.

2.  While fiddleheads are cooking, begin cooking pasta according to pasta directions, until just al dente. Drain and reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.  Stir a tsp of olive oil through pasta to keep from sticking, and set aside.

3.  Heat oil over medium heat in a medium pot and sauté pancetta until lightly browned.  Add the wild ramps and sauté for two minutes.  Add the fiddleheads and the prawns, and cook until the prawns are just cooked through and opaque. 

Reserve the leafy green tops for your morning omelette

4.  Add the pasta and tomato sauce, and stir to combine, adding some of the cooking water if needed to ensure the pasta is evenly coated with sauce.  The sauce is meant to complement, not overwhelm, the dish.  Serve in two shallow heated bowls with a crisp cold Riesling.