On my way home, strolling through the airport looking for coffee and maybe breakfast, I came across a row of folding tables and a sign: Capers Farm to Table. A local food airport market. I had to at least look.
Walking the length of the offerings was a lot of what you'd expect: popcorn, nuts, trail mix, honey, Oregon wines. But in the middle, nearly hidden was a small area of fresh, locally foraged produce. Fiddlehead ferns and fragrant, earthy morels. I couldn't resist. Sure I already had a beautiful Pendleton wool shirt in my bag for James but this would be a real treat, Besides, although I'd tasted ferns in restaurants I had never cooked them myself. A chef's treat like that I immediately began to picture creamy parmesan risotto topped with sautéed fiddleheads and morels -- the very picture of spring in wetter climes. Very soon I was carrying Pacific Northwest home to California for dinner.
The fiddleheads, I learned, need a quick blanch before using in sautés or salads so I popped them in boiling water and then right into a hot frying pan where the morels were already plumping up in butter, olive oil and fresh thyme. After just a few minutes I piled my precious cargo over oven-baked risotto (onions, sautéed in 2 TB olive oil until soft, garlic and thyme added in for good measure, 1 1/2 cup arborio rice toasted in the oil, 1/2 cup of wine cooked until evaporated, 3 cups of warm chicken broth stirred in then covered and baked for 25 minutes at 400º. Just before serving I stirred in another cup of warm broth, 2 TB of butter and a handful of parmesan cheese).
I was a little nervous. These were luxury ingredients with a luxurious price tag. I wanted to do them justice and make the effort (and expense) worth it.
I needn't have worried. James sat down intrigued and excited by something totally new. The bright green little curls taste almost like the freshest asparagus ever but better. Sweeter, more vibrant, more special. A fresh bite of wild spring.