Monday, May 08, 2006

I was checking out one of my favorite websites, Mighty Foods, earlier today.
As I scrolled through the post I was taken back a good 50 years to a day when my step-mom came home with a couple of paper grocery sacks crammed full of ferny looking things. She filled the kitchen sink with cold water and dumped in the greenery. She was so excited with her find but I couldn't imagine we were going to eat this sink full of weeds. I soon learned these were fiddleheads, young, unopened fern fronds which are cleaned, cooked and eaten just like other greens. Much like the short season of dandelion greens, fiddleheads are only available for a short span before they unfurl and become ferns. This harvest was a rare treat. Mom had picked them at her brother's farm in Maine and transported the delicacies over the border into New Hampshire. I doubt there was a law against it, but those Mainiacs might have begrudged losing such a find to their snobby southern neighbors.
In our blue collar home, gourmet food preparations were unknown but plain fresh food was abundant and these fiddleheads were no exception. After many rinsings, the greens were ready for a long hot boil with a generous helping of diced salt pork. I don't think any green vegetable in that house was ever cooked without salt pork nor was it ever served until it had lost every bit of it's bright green color! When the fiddleheads were cooked to the requisite limpness, we were each handed a bowl, with a dollop of butter, a sprinkling of vinegar and a generous shake of salt and pepper. The juices at the bottom of the bowl were mopped up with slices of airbread. Man, was that good!
I love dandelion greens and we had those every year as our lawn was very accommodating, supplying us with several good meals of the bitter green before they went to flower. The lowly dandelion makes for fine eating and drinking, too. My friend, Nancy Schwartz, had a knack for making a great dandelion wine. She'd pick the dandelions in the spring and make the wine with her secret recipe and put the bottles away in a dark place (hidden somewhere in the garage, I think) until the fall when it was ready for decanting. The bottles I was lucky enough to have were a stiff competition for Harvey's Bristol Cream. I often wonder where Nancy is and what she's doing. Sad how people drift in and out of our lives moving on and how easy it is to lose touch.
No fiddleheads or dandelion greens in my pantry but I did cook some greens this morning - green beans. I decided a little ethnic treatment would be good for a change so I carmelized a nice big yellow onion, added a couple of cloves of minced garlic and tossed in a pound of cleaned young slender firm green beans that had been blanched for about 4 minutes. I added a generous pinch of Mexican Oregano purchased from Rancho Gordo and a small can of tomato sauce and simmered gently until the beans were tender yet still a bit firm to the bite. They'll cook a little more when reheated in the microwave tonight for dinner. They'll be a nice accompaniment to a Tilapia fillet I plan on having for dinner before heading out to the free new play reading at Lowdnes Theater at 7pm. (This year's monthly play readings have been great entertainment and you can't beat the price. Come on out and join the fun!)
When I was working, I'd clean and blanch green beans on the weekend and put them in a ziplock bag in the fridge then they were ready for an easy prep for one of my fast 30 minute dinners. It's really handy to have fresh veggies ready to roll. Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day takes a little planning and preparation. But good food can be fast food with a little forethought. Not only is it good for's so much less expensive than those prepared, processed, packaged products! That message was brought to you by the letter P!
Reminds me of the Sesame Street episode where I heard, "This is the letter N. It stands for: ninny, nincompoop and numbskull!" Of all the words that start with the letter n, they sure picked a great trio to enhance a youngsters vocabulary, didn't they?

No comments: