A wonderful old-fashioned food (OK, it’s an oldways food) is in markets right now, making its annual month-long appearance.  It’s Fiddlehead Ferns, an elegant delicacy and a favorite from childhood. They’re immature ferns, and a bit odd-looking – each fiddlehead is a tightly-coiled spiral about the size of a 50-cent piece, with its stalk wrapped tightly around miniature fronds like a tire around a rim.  If not harvested at this stage, each fiddlehead would mature into a tall, feathery fern. Buy a pound of fiddleheads, and when ready to cook them, rinse and then turn them out on a countertop or cutting board.  Trim off any bruised stem ends, and pick out any wilted fiddleheads and any remaining papery brown stem sheaths. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, add a level teaspoon of salt, then add the fiddleheads all at once.  Cook for 3 minutes after the water comes back to a boil, then empty the fiddleheads into a colander in the sink to drain. To serve, put the drained fiddleheads into a serving bowl, add half a cup of extra virgin olive oil (or 6 pats of butter), a level teaspoon of sea salt, a level tablespoon of freshly-ground black pepper, then turn gently with a large serving spoon until the fiddleheads are evenly coated, and serve.    A teaspoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice is an optional taste brightener. For our post-Kentucky Derby dinner we had fiddleheads with whole-grain orzo and a luscious grilled sirloin steak.  The little-known the fiddleheads were a winner with the guests, just as the unknown 50-1 Mine That Bird came from nowhere to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby! -Dun

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