I love this time of year.
I eagerly wait for the first fresh, seasonal food to grow. It begs creativity. I feel myself become more invigorated as the days warm and feel full of vibrant life.
Although my Diva sister-in-law is very much a city girl, her Dad taught her a few tricks growing up in a small town and one of them is foraging.
I am in awe. The last time I went foraging went something like this:
I returned from a walk in the woods around our cottage and spread the mushrooms out for final inspection. A call was placed to the Don Mills Diva's father; a forager, fisherman and all-around good guy. He advised me to stay away from mushrooms exhibiting colour and slime. He concurred I had a puffball on my hands after I sliced it in half to make sure it was solid. He was baffled by the oyster mushroom discovery, claiming he had never found any and couldn’t help.
He ended the call by saying he was really busy the following week and would not be able to fit in any funerals.
ECK! Did I dare?
I only dared once and was scared silly that I had poisoned my family for the next 48 hours: no, I am not a confident forager.
Having been trained by one of the best, the Diva hasn’t these fears. In around Kelly’s hometown there are a few spots teeming with a bounty of ramps (wild leeks) and morels (wild mushrooms) which she confidently identifies and, I assume, forces Rob to dig up. (editor's note: you assumed right, sister)
A weekend visit up to her parents' house a few weeks back yielded me the happy recipient of two unassuming grocery store bags heavy with their finds.
This recipe combines the holy trinity of spring: fiddleheads, morels and ramps. The fresh cheese I buy is found in a container and seems to tie everything together. If you are at the St Lawrence Farmers Market in Toronto, ask Monteforte’s Ruth Klassen if she has any fresh cheese. If she does buy it- it is outstanding and would be perfect here.
And hey, if you don’t have a foraging Diva in your life, you can pick up fiddleheads, ramps and morels at farmers markets as well. Just do it soon, the season is short.
Well Hello Spring Pasta
with Fiddleheads, Morels, Ramps, Tomatoes and Fresh Cheese
1. Clean fiddleheads and ramps. Chop ramps in half then roughly chop stem ends. Cut the leaves in thin slices. Sauté in butter a handful of cleaned, chopped morels, fiddleheads and chopped ramps ends.
2. Add 8 oz of spaghetti to a large saucepan of salted boiling water. Cook for 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain reserving ¼ cup of pasta water.
3. Toss pasta with 8 oz fresh cheese cut or torn into bite sized chunks, 2 pints (about 2 1/2 cups) roughly chopped assorted tomatoes* and cut ramp leaves. Toss in sautéed stuff.
4. Drizzle is 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and reserved water if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
5. Serve immediately with a simple tossed salad on the side.
Makes 6 servings.
*Having a variety of tomatoes in this pasta adds extra visual interest. A combination of yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes cut in quarters is a favourite. Tear drop and heirloom tomatoes are worth the work to find when they are in season.