Fiddleheads are always one of the first Spring produce to pop at the market. I rarely eat them more than once a year because their season is very short, and because let’s face it, finding creative ways to eat them can be a challenge. But I love their unique look and crunchy bite.
I almost always eat them this way, in a quinoa risotto. If you’re new to fiddleheads or haven’t had much luck with them in the past, this recipe is a great place to start.
Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots of the ostrich fern. They’re particularly low in calories and very high in vitamin A, a powerful natural antioxidant. They also contain good amounts of vitamin C, fibre and minerals (particularly manganese, iron and copper).
Be careful when preparing fiddleheads, as they can cause food poisoning if they haven’t been cooked properly. They should never be eaten raw! It’s recommended to boil them twice to make sure they’re completely safe to eat.
I’m using quinoa here for a more nutritious risotto (or “quinotto”, I should say!?). There’s no butter or cheese in this recipe either, although it’s surprisingly creamy and cheesy! I use cashews that I blend with vegetable stock and nutritional yeast to get a luscious, cheesy sauce that once added to the cooked quinoa makes it suuuper creamy and oh so flavourful.
I hope you can get your hands on some fiddleheads before they’re gone. And if you can’t find them, I hope you give this risotto a try anyways (just sub any vegetables you like!). It’s so delicious and great for all seasons.
Notes: If fiddlehead ferns are not in season or available where you are, you can replace them with asparagus or another vegetable of your choice. I highly recommend not skipping the parsley oil here, it ties everything together so nicely.
Vegan Mushroom & Fiddlehead Risotto with Parsley Oil
For the risotto
- 5 oz fiddlehead ferns about 1 1/2 cups
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- 1 cup quinoa rinsed well
- 2 1/2-3 cups vegetable stock or as needed*
- 1/3 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 oz mushrooms I used a mix of wild mushrooms
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
For the parsley oil
- 1/4 cup packed parsley
- 1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
For the fiddleheads
Remove any yellow/brown skin from the fiddleheads and cut off brown ends. Rinse well. Cook in boiling water for 5-6 minutes. Drain and discard water. Repeat again with new boiling water. After the second boiling, drain the fiddleheads and rinse well under cold water. Set aside.
For the risotto
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Then add the rinsed quinoa, stirring to coat well. Cook for 1 minute, then add 2 cups of the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, place the cashews in a jar. Pour 1/2 cup of the remaining hot vegetable stock over the cashews and let sit for about 10 minutes while you cook the mushrooms.
For the vegetables
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove any dirt from the mushrooms and trim the ends. Add to the skillet and cook for 4 minutes without touching. Flip and cook for 1 more minute on the other side. Then add the fiddleheads and cook together for 2-3 more minutes. The mushrooms should be golden brown and the fiddleheads slightly crispy. Season generously with salt and pepper.
For the parsley oil
Blend the oil and parsley in a small blender or with an immersion blender. Set aside.
Finish and assemble
Add nutritional yeast and lemon juice to the cashews and stock and blend with an immersion blender until you get a rich, creamy sauce.
Check the quinoa to make sure it's tender. If it seems too dry or uncooked, add a bit more vegetable stock. Once cooked to your taste, pour the cheesy cashew sauce into the pot and stir well. The quinoa should be rich and creamy. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
To serve, divide the risotto into bowls. Top with the sautéed mushrooms and fiddleheads and drizzle with the parsley oil.
Recipe Notes*I used regular vegetable stock. If you use a low-sodium stock, make sure you season generously with salt.