Monday, April 30, 2007

a spring hike

Mr.S and I wanted to do something fun together, just him and me, for our 2 year anniversary, so we went on a hike in Gunpowder State Park on saturday. I love to hike the Shenandoah Nat'l Park trails in Virginia, so this was my first time exploring a MD trail. We started our day with coffee and a Naked Juice at the Daily Grind, then onto Wegman's for some portable treats for the hike. I got a banana (potassium) and beef jerky (protein) and Mr.S picked up a potato knish, ham & gruyere sandwich, soychips, and water. Off we went with the clouds looming overhead. Ah well, it was an adventure!

There were signs of spring all over- budding branches, leafy vegetation along the bank, wild flowers, a gushing stream down the hillside. My favorite were the fiddlehead ferns that grew in little groves, close to the ground, silvery-haired and resilient to its surroundings. It's the ultimate sign that winter has gone and left.


I have not seen fiddlehead ferns on a Baltimore menu as of yet; if anyone knows who makes a dish out of these little fellas, please drop me a line.

According to Today food editor Phil Lempert, tender, young fiddlehead fronds resemble the tops of fiddles, hence their name. The taste of these unusual greens is reminiscent of asparagus, yet nutty. Don’t be tempted to pick these ferns yourself, as some are poisonous. The following salad is the perfect seasonal pairing of treats from the forest, fiddleheads and morels.

Fiddlehead Fern and Morel Mushroom Salad with Winchester Aged Gouda
Fifth Floor Restaurant

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns
1/2 pound morel mushrooms
3 tablespoons clarified butter (or vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons walnut flavored oil, plus extra to dress the plate
2 tablespoons 100-year-old balsamic vinegar
1 small piece of Winchester Aged Gouda to shave on top
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim the fiddlehead ferns
2. Blanch the ferns in salted, boiling water for one minute
3. Chill in ice water immediately to cool
4. Wash and slice the morel mushrooms
5. Sauté mushrooms in butter until tender, then cool
6. Combine ferns and mushrooms in a medium mixing bowl, and toss with oil and vinegar
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste
8. Arrange about 1/2 cup of salad in the middle of a plate
9. Drizzle walnut oil and balsamic in a circle around the salad
10. Shave a few slices of cheese on top


The hike ended up being about 7-8 miles. On the way back, the trail blazes were less than adequate, so a couple times we were lost and also a bit miffed from the spring showers. For the most part, it was truly wonderful to enjoy the peace and quiet and clean fresh air out there. Following alongside the river was really quite serene and a great way to get some exercise in without really thinking about it. We'll have to do our research and find more trails to discover in the area.

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