Mostly, I was born this way. I ate whatever my parents ate and my parents ate VERY well. But, it's also taken a lot of work. When I identify something I don't really like, I do my best to try it a variety of different ways - multiple times - and usually I come around. I can now say that I happily eat cumin (within reason), I now have an occasional craving for a tuna fish sandwich and I can say without reserve that I am fully ready to try sea urchin again.
Which brings me to fiddlehead ferns. I didn't think I liked them. In fact, I really didn't care about them at all. Fiddlehead ferns pop up in our markets and kitchens every early spring, along with the other spring harbingers everyone is always talking about, morels, peas and ramps. If you've never tasted one, it's sort of like a slightly bitter, wild-tasting asparagus. My trouble with them has been that because of their adorable, tightly curled spiral shape, they're almost never cleaned properly, usually undercooked for my taste and I find myself guiltily pushing them around on my plate every spring. Especially since I refuse to like something just because I SHOULD.
I know what you're thinking. "Uh, dude, it's September. We're kind of past fiddlehead season, aren't we?" Yes. We are. Or so I thought.
Yeah. That's what you think it is. A jar of sour pickled fiddlehead ferns, procured from the new and amazing Brooklyn Farmacy, which I can't wait to tell you about later. These guys hail from VoterVale Farm in Avon, Maine and I just don't know how to thank them enough.
I know that I'm so predictable, but it turns out that pickling these suckers is the secret for me. The vinegar bath and processing tenderize them just right and give them a slightly fermented, caper-ish, almost white-wine-like flavor that I absolutely can't get enough of.
The other great thing about them? See all those mustard seeds swimming around in there with them? The shape of the ferns sort of acts like a natural scoop for those guys, trapping them in their inner coils and transporting them directly to your mouth.
In addition to eating them greedily, straight out of the jar, I've also been using them anywhere I'd use capers or olives, like the fiddlehead pesto crudo I drizzled on top of a risotto cake and a sunny-side-up egg last weekend.
Pickled Fiddlehead Pesto Crudo
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Parmesean
10 - 12 pickled fiddleheads, finely chopped
3 cups packed basil leaves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
Grate garlic cloves on a fine micro-plane into a small bowl. Add fiddleheads, basil leaves, salt and pepper. Bash with cocktail muddler until the basil is just bruised and releasing some oil. Stir in the Parmesean and olive oil and let sit while you prepare whatever you will drizzle this over to make more delicious.