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Ah Spring!  (continued from ...)

So what are these spring vegetables that get my heart racing and my mouth watering?
If you are a fan, you already know: Asparagus, Ramps, Morels, and Fiddlehead Ferns!
My mouth waters just thinking of these culinary delights, but my kitchen creativity is
put on hold. Why? Because when you have something like fresh from the ground
Fiddlehead Ferns, you want to enjoy them in all of their
fresh green glory. I get shaky just thinking of going commando on the delicate
vegetables of spring. They are really best left alone and allowed to shine in their unique
delicious way.

I live in a pretty accessible area. I can get just about anything I want at just about any
time, but certain foodstuffs elude me. Maybe because I am not fully aware of the
resources available to me, though I am learning and enjoying the hunt. Most of these
spring vegetables were first introduced to me, not in my own kitchen, but at
restaurants. My first Morel mushroom was served as simply as can be, and I was
hooked. Asparagus was never a part of the dining room table when I was coming up,
and when I finally found the slender beauties to be to my liking, I rejoiced. Ramps and
Ferns have been in my repertoire now over 10 years, but I still remember the thrill of
having been introduced to them

Asparagus is one of those venerable spring vegetables. Everyone knows asparagus,
and whether as kids the spears had to choked down, or as adults we have discovered
their seductiveness, asparagus is at its freshest and most abundant in the spring

Morels may be a little more elusive. Mushrooms in general have a strong following, but
also a very vocal base of haters. The Morel suffers at the hands of the unfamiliar,
nevermind that they are not as popular as the Shiitake or the Portobello. This is due in
part to the fact that the availability is not only localized, but very short. There are two
types of Morels, the West Coast Black Morel, and the mid-western blonde Morel. The
season runs, generally, from April 1 to May 1. With such limited availability, the Morel is
not an inexpensive mushroom, but it is one of the most unique. Their distinctive
honeycomb look, woodsy aroma, and tart wild flavor are to be enjoyed in the purest
preparation, sauteed with a little butter and served hot. Morels are not the stand-alone
fungi, as Portobello can be, and are best served as a compliment to baked fresh fish or a
heady, herb-encrusted fowl.

Ramps are even more elusive. They are the same plant as the wild leek, a wild-growing
onion. They have incredibly fresh green leaves with small white bulbous roots. They are
known as Ramps in the Appalachian range where they grow. Harvest in the Appalachian
range begins around the middle of April. Within a few weeks of that harvest they are
found and harvested in the Great Lakes region where they are called Wild Leeks. Ramps
are harvested quite early and never reach more than six inches in length. They are best
suited to fresh spring salads, though a plate of sauteedd ramps sounds incredibly
appealing. Like leeks, ramps can be quite dirty, so it is best to wash them thoroughly
before slicing, sauteeing, and serving. As with any of these fresh spring vegetables,
long-term storage is not recommended. The sooner you enjoy yourpurchase, they
happier with it you will be.

Fiddlehead Ferns are the most elusive of all spring vegetables. They are available for 6 or
7 days, at the most, in the heart of springtime, okay, that might be extreme, but unless
you know where to find them, they may as well be available only 24 hours. So why
bother seeking them out? If you have ever wanted to taste spring, the Fiddlehead Fern
is the vegetable to promise you that experience and more. Vaguely reminiscent of
asparagus, Fiddlehead Ferns have a nutty flavor all their own and can be used in much
the same way. Fiddlehead Ferns match culinarily-well with cheese, marinara sauces, and
East Asian cuisine, and are delicious with a nice homemade hollandaise sauce. The best
Fiddlehead Ferns have a crisp texture, both raw and after cooked, but it should be
noted that it is not recommended that Fiddlehead Ferns be eaten raw, at least not in
any considerable quantity.

Perhaps it was the scent of the sprouts of these vegetables that I caught the other
morning. Maybe it was the ground relinquishing itself to the prospect of giving life to
the freshest of vegetables. No matter what it was, I foresee at least a few lunches and
dinners highlighted with the best of what spring has to offer: the vegetables of spring.

Quiche of springtime vegetables

1 9 inch pie crust, fit into a 9 inch deep fish pie plate
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped ramps
1/4 pound fiddlehead ferns
House salt
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
4 large eggs
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon Texas Pete’s hot sauce, then to taste
1 packed cup grated Jarlsburg cheese
8 asparagus snapped in half, bottoms saved for vegetable stock

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt the butter in a small pan and add the ramps. Saute over medium heat for a few
minutes. When they begin to soften, add the fiddlehead ferns, salt, pepper, thyme, and
mustard. Saute 5 minutes longer and remove from heat.

Combine eggs, milk, and flour in a blender or food processor and beat well. Spread the
grated cheese over the bottom of the prepared crust and spread the onion-mushroom
mixture on top. Pour in the custard, and sprinkle the top with paprika. Arrange the
asparagus in a pinwheel fashion over the surface of the quiche

Bake Quiche of springtime vegetables 40 minutes or until solid in the center. Let the
quiche rest for 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes and server very warm or at room