I first heard about fiddlehead ferns last year and have been practically stalking the produce section at Whole Foods, waiting for their arrival. If you are not familiar with them, they are the unfurled fronds of a young fern harvested along the eastern United States from Virginia up north to Canada. They are only available for a short 2 weeks in any area, so if you see them, grab them! If you don't live where they are grown naturally, no fear, you can purchase them here during their growing season.
If you can't find fiddlehead ferns or don't want to shell out the cash for delivery, feel free to substitute additional asparagus and leeks. Just don't miss out on this risotto!
Lemon Risotto with Fiddlehead Ferns
adapted from Apartment Therapy . serves 6
2 c fiddlehead ferns, well washed
1 c white asparagus (or green), cut into 1" pieces
6 c vegetable broth
3 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped & washed
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 c arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine (or white cooking wine)
the juice of 1 lemon
the zest of 1 lemon
1 c grated pecorino romano (or parmesan) cheese
black pepper, to taste
1/2 c chopped walnuts, toasted
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add fiddlehead ferns and asparagus and cook 2 minutes. Drain and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking process.
In a small saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil, turn down heat and keep at a low simmer. Heat 2 T butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add leeks and garlic and sauté, 2 minutes. Add rice, white wine and lemon juice, cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add 1 c simmering stock. Cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed, about 4 minutes. Continue adding stock, 1 c at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy, 20 minutes. Add the last cup of broth, fiddlehead ferns and asparagus. Stir well.
Turn off heat and stir in 1 T butter, lemon zest and cheese. Season to taste with pepper and top with walnuts.