Spring Salads: Fiddleheads and Favas

Myth: a salad doesn’t have to be seasonal to be great. It just has to be well-made and well-designed. Like a Caesar of whole leaves dressed lightly with a fresh light dressing of crushed anchovies, garlic, olive oil, and maybe an egg. Or a beet salad with a dollop of yogurt or crème fraiche, and dill. I’d happily eat those year round.

Still, perfect, seasonal ingredients guarantee a great dish, regardless of its crafter’s skill. Finally, it’s springtime, which means a lot of weird-looking sprouts, shoots, edible flowers, and so on. Fiddleheads, with their tightly coiled stalk reminiscent of a bike wheel, may be the oddest. Like a crummy musical, the taste is far less interesting than the appearance, but springtime salads are about subtle flavors, light dressings, and an almost food-styled beauty.

We used fava beans which, like fiddleheads, are subtle in flavor, which is why a few cloves of garlic confit and a light grain mustard vinaigrette boosts the whole dish and makes it a perfect spring salad. Frisee, tasteless, but beautiful, adds a nice touch, but feel free to wander the yard and pull up weird (hopefully safe) shoots. All in the name of a spring salad.

Fiddlehead and Fava Spring Salad

Serves 2

1 cup fiddleheads
1 cup fava beans, shelled
1 bulb garlic, peeled into individual cloves
2 tablespoons grain mustard
medium handful frisee, trimmed of green
olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch the fiddleheads and favas, about 2 minutes. Refresh in cold water, peel the skins from the fava beans, and reserve both.
  2. Add the garlic cloves to a small pot and cover with olive oil by about an inch. Place over very low heat and cook for about 1/ 2 hour. The garlic should be meltingly soft and lightly colored but not brown. If it’s bubbling too much, lower the heat. Remove from heat and let cool then Strain the oil and reserve for another use. It’s very handy.
  3. For the broken mustard dressing, whisk the mustard with 1/3 cup olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. It won’t be fully emulsified.
  4. Finish the salad by tossing the vegetables with the vinaigrette very gently. Divide among plates and arrange three cloves of garlic confit inside each portion as well as a light drizzle of the dressing.

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