May 5, 2010

The Maine Ingredient: Spring means fun with fiddleheads


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Bright, grassy, astringent, just-bitter-enough fiddleheads: The season just started, and it’ll be over very soon.

Elizabeth Poisson photo

Serves four.


Almost any bright-green veggie, including swiss chard, pea shoots, broccoli and spinach, would be lovely in this soup. It's light, bright and packed with vitamins. You'll want to choose veggies that cook quickly and when pureed will give up any stringiness that they hold. Celery, for example, would not work well, but If you have lovage (a celery-flavored herb that is more fragrant than celery itself) in your garden, it would be terrific.

It's possible to use frozen veggies in this soup, but WHY when nature is just beginning to give us tender, green gifts sprouting up everywhere?

Another step to making this soup, which I would recommend on those chillier days when a little heat in the kitchen is welcome, would be to saute some onions and garlic in a little butter at the beginning. Combine the chicken stock and corn starch before adding it to the pot, and then follow the recipe below as indicated. The addition of onions will give this soup more body and a fuller flavor.

But on a warm, spring, almost-summer night, it's perfect just the way it is.

If you make this soup ahead, it loses its bright-green brilliance. Try instead blanching the peas (or other vegetable) in the chicken-broth mixture and shocking them in cold water. Reserve the broth, of course. Add the pureed vegetable to the hot broth just before you are ready to serve.

1/4 cup corn starch

4 cups low-salt chicken broth

1/2 cup minced chives, plus a little extra for garnish

4 cups shelled peas, or 20 ounces

1 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper

8 oz. creme fraiche, a little set aside for garnish

Whisk the corn starch and the broth together in a medium stock pot or sauce pan. Once the corn starch is incorporated, turn the heat to medium-high and stir frequently until it comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and add the peas, chives, salt and pepper. Bring back to a boil, and cook the peas until they are just cooked through. Depending on the size of the peas, this will be a couple of minutes at the most.

Transfer the soup to a blender and puree until the peas are well blended, and then add the creme fraiche at the end. Serve immediately with a tiny dollop of creme fraiche and minced chives.

Serves four to six.


4 long diagonal slices of baguette or homemade crusty bread

1/4 cup pesto

Spread the pesto on all four slices of bread and broil for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and the middle is hot.

Makes 4 crostini.


CORRECTION: The asparagus in Roasted Pesto Asparagus in my previous column should be roasted at 425 degrees.


Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of "At Home, At Sea," a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family's windjammer. She can be reached at:


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