Sunday, May 31, 2009

Greening Up

Some days, you just need something quick and dirty to feed yourself in between the demands of home, garden, work and family. On those days, nothing beats a light and simple stir-fry. Especially when the Summer months come, bringing days of camp sessions, late night drives to the cottage and times where it's too darn hot to even turn on the BBQ, you can't go wrong with a single pan, lots of fresh veggies and about 20 minutes to make the magic happen.

Such magic is infinitely variable, so of course this recipe and it's ingredients are not etched in stone! It was a good blend of ingredients, mind you - and I got to use my new julienne peeler! I'm going to axe the snowpeas next time though, possibly in favour of some shredded beets - I'm not as fond of them today as I used to be.

Super Spring Stir Fry
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, julienned
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 oz snowpeas, halved
6 oz parboiled cauliflower florets
1/2 medium zucchini, julienned
3 oz beansprouts
8 oz baby bok choy, halved
  1. Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium-high.
  2. Combine pepper flakes, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small dish, set aside.
  3. Add a splash of water and the onions. Cook, stirring, until the onions begin to colour - about 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, carrot, and mushrooms, along with a bit of extra water if needed. Cook a further 3-4 minutes, stirring well.
  5. Toss in snowpeas, cauliflower, zucchini, beansprouts and bok choy.
  6. Cook, stirring, until bok choy is crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes, then pour the soy sauce mixture over the whole works.
  7. Toss well and serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 231.0
Total Fat: 2.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 700.4 mg
Total Carbs: 49.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 15.0 g
Protein: 14.6 g

Of course, if your early Summer nights are more like ours up here and are more suited to jackets and jeans than jugs of iced tea, firing up the oven and roasting some seasonal greenery isn't totally out of the question! Anyone hitting the markets in the northeastern part of the USA, or anywhere from southern Ontario eastward, will probably have seen these funky little spiral veggies in the produce bins - for about three weeks each Spring. What are they? Well, because the people that name vegetables apparently were lacking in inspiration when they discovered these immature ferns, they're called fiddleheads, due to their resemblance to a certain string instrument's top. Apparently (at least according to Wikipedia) these tops of the ostrich fern are also available in Oceana (coastal Asia, New Zealand and Australia).

These are supposed to be fully cooked in order to neutralize the "mystery toxin" that was linked to some food poisoning episodes in Canada, and the most common method is boiling the heck out of them. I have somewhat of an abhorrence to boiled vegetables of any kind (I don't think I've boiled a veg in my entire life, after being raised on Grandma's broccoli and carrots), so I was eager to find another way. Any other way. Well, what could thoroughly cook a vegetable more so than popping it into a blazing hot oven for 20 minutes and serving it with lashings of Sriracha? If the heat doesn't kill everything on it, the hot sauce sure will.

There's even less of a recipe for these babies than there was for the stir fry. Essentially, you clean off all the papery brown ends, dirt and slimy bits, dry them well, and place one layer of fiddleheads onto a non-stick spray coated sheet pan (or two, or three if you have lots... I had about 5 oz of them and it took up one large cookie sheet - and that was pushing it). Put the pans into a preheated 400-425F oven (it doesn't have to be exact, I was roasting potatoes between those two temps so I piggybacked) and cook them for 20-25 minutes, stirring the greens halfway through. In the end you'll have delicious, asparagussy tasting tender fiddleheads with the tiniest bit of charred goodness and no hint of anything that will make you sick!

In case you were wondering, 1/2 cup (3.5oz) of these seasonal beauties have only 34 calories, .4g fat, 2g fibre, 4.6g of protein and 72% of your RDA for Vitamin A! They're gone from the markets now, the parent plants having matured into their equally pretty (but inedible) Ostrich Fern counterparts. Ah well, only 11 more months until the next harvest!


  1. Yum! Love the stir fry! And I've wanted to try fern heads since I first read about them over a year ago. Sadly I've yet to find any in Australia :( (that and Kale, I'm devastated!)

  2. Fiddleheads are hard for us to find! I will enjoy them vicariously through your post! Thank you! -k

  3. That looks so delicious, I'm making stir fry tonight!


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