Fiddleheads are a relatively recent discovery for me. About six years back, we were living north of Toronto, in Bolton, Ontario.
A small town with a decidedly Italian influence. More of a bedroom community, with easy access to the neighbouring cities for work and shopping. It is a small, connected community, with farmland all around. I could totally relate: I had grown up in southern Ontario, in Amherstburg, then a town of about 6,ooo with a large Italian community. And surrounded by farmland.
During our time in Bolton, we got to know one family that was living out in the country. And like most country folk, they knew their way around the flora and fauna of the countryside. I knew that wild asparagus grew in ditches, down where I grew up. In fact, asparagus season was actually only as long you could pick them, before they went to seed for the summer (not like today where asparagus, and pretty well every vegetable and fruit is available year round) So fiddleheads. I had heard of them, but had never actually seen them in person, let alone tried them. They are the shoots of a fern before it begins to mature and unfurl. It is only while they are tightly curled up that we can eat them. Really a fleeting moment of spring. And they look like fiddleheads! We were given a bag that the family had foraged. They explained how to prepare them: they must be boiled or steamed for at least 10 minutes before they are fit for human consumption. That was their only disclaimer. So I did that. But what to expect for my tastebuds? Pleasant, remarkably like asparagus! And like asparagus, they are a good detoxifier, are anti-inflammatory, are high in anti-oxidants, polyphenols, and are good for cardiovascular health.
Naturally, I started to think of ways to serve them. Pretty well any way that I served asparagus, I could serve fiddleheads. With olive oil, lemon and some pecorino over pasta; tossed into a warm salad; in a risotto; quiches, frittatas, and in this tart.
This is a recipe that I first tried last year with great success. I had already tried a savoury galette with goat cheese and tomatoes; I had used my own pie crust as well as used puff pastry for savoury galettes, both summer and autumnal. Then I came across a recipe for an asparagus galette on the Simple Bites website. The filling was similar to one I had created for a marrow and herb galette, but it was the crust that intrigued me. Allison Ruth used yogurt in it. It came together beautifully. rolled out nicely, and baked up so buttery and tender. Definitely a keeper dough for this application. In fact this dough would be great for my autumn harvest tomato tart, for which I usually use puff pastry. Will share that recipe in tomato season!
So I made the galette with fiddleheads. I steamed them first, and then let them cool while I prepared the pastry and the filling. Once all together, it bakes up so easily, and becomes a wonderful meatless meal. It can be served as a brunch, lunch or dinner main, with a lovely green salad on the side. We have been known to sneak slices and eat them cold as well. It is that good!
And this past weekend, on that most successful trip to St Lawrence Market, I found fiddleheads. And it’s not even April! I got so excited. Sure, they did come from British Columbia, where they are a good month ahead of us in warmer weather. But they were cute little fiddleheads. I just had to pick them up. Having been able to make this tart before April starts means that I can extend fiddlehead season, yay!!
I hope you get to try fiddleheads. And if you can’t find them, then prepare this with asparagus. You don’t need to cook the asparagus ahead of time. You can lay it out in long spears, or you can cut them into 1-1.5″ pieces and spread them out the way I did the fiddleheads. You’ll be so happy you made this. Trust me! As has been the case for a while now, I play with the flours, so when I make it, I use einkorn flour mixed with the AP, but since most of you may not have access to einkorn or emmer, I will write out her dough recipe in the original state. And isn’t is wild the way lighting changes images. The first image below was the natural late afternoon sunlight. The second was my kitchen lighting. Oh well. I’ll get better, I hope! (I’d like to think I’m getting a hang of this photography thing, I’ve added some more recent photos of the same recipe in the same kitchen! 🙂 )
Summer Tomato Crostata
Summer tomatoes are king on this crostata- an easy to whip up dough, with a layer of cheese and herbs, and topped with the best tomatoes of the season. Serve it as an appetizer or main dish.
- 1 1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) frozen unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup ice cold water
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup goat cheese softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese I just use 'pizza' mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese fresh is best
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme chopped
- 1 tsp hot pepper flakes
- 1.5 lb or so fresh tomatoes sliced. You can use a variety of tomatoes, both in sizes and colour
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp fresh basil chiffonade'ed
- Maldon finishing salt for the crust
For the Crust"
Add the flour and 1/4 tsp salt to a bowl. Whisk to combine. With the large holes of a grater, grate the butter stick into the flour. Mix gently with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the yogurt, water and lemon juice. Pour this over the flour mixture and use your hands or a wooden spoon to form the dough into a ball. Flatten slightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
To prepare the Filling:
Whisk together the olive and garlic cloves in a small bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the three cheeses and then add the olive oil mixture. Stir in the thyme and hot pepper flakes. Refrigerate till ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the dough from the freezer.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
On a well floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12 inch circle, trimming the edges to clean it up. Transfer the dough to the parchment lined baking sheet.
Leaving a 2 inch border untouched, spread the cheese mixture evenly over the dough. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Overlap slightly and arrange in a pleasing way, then drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with the fresh basil.
Fold the edges of the dough in and over the filling, pleating to make it lay nicely.
Whisk together the egg and 1 tsp water. Brush this over the crust. Sprinkle the edges with the finishing salt, and extra thyme leaves if desired.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is puffed and crust is golden brown.
Let it cool just a touch before cutting into it, allowing it to set.
This also tastes lovely at room temperature. It even tastes good cold!
You can use a variety of tomatoes- heirloom, roma, beefsteak, cherry, grape etc. Various colours also make for visual impact.
Because each tomato will vary in size, I am going to leave it to you to decide how many you will use. Large ones may require that you are only using two or three. But if you are sticking to smaller sizes, you may end up using four or even six. Just don't over fill, you want them all to get the opportunity to roast off without becoming soggy.