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These small fried morsels are as beautiful as they are delicious! If you forage and come upon only a handful of fiddleheads, you can make tempura asparagus, broccoli, onion rings, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini—whatever is in season!
PONZU DIPPING SAUCE
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
3-inch piece of ginger, sliced thin
Zest of 1 lime
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup ice cold sparkling water
16 oz canola or peanut oil
8 oz fiddlehead ferns, washed and trimmed
To prepare the ponzu dipping sauce, in a small saucepan mix vinegar, sugar, ginger, lime zest, and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, lime juice, and orange juice and let stand 2 hours.
For the tempura batter, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk in sparkling water until smooth.
In a tall heavy-bottom saucepan, add enough oil (1 or 2 inches) that the vegetables have room to fry and brown on all sides. Heat oil to 375 degrees.
For tempura, dip fiddlehead ferns in batter and drop them gently into oil. Don’t crowd too many in at once or the oil temperature will drop and the tempura will not crisp properly. When the edges turn golden brown, turn the tempura. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove from oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.
Strain dipping sauce and service it in a bowl alongside the tempura.
Makes 6 appetizer-size servings
From Dain McMillin, Riversong Lodge, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Excerpted from Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine, by Jennifer Hahn (Skipstone, 2010)