A simple, creamy fiddlehead soup showcases that delightful spring delicacy. It's light and fresh, allowing the fiddleheads to shine - each spoonful tastes like the delicate essence of fiddlehead fern! Follow the soup with charred radicchio and orange salad, then a beautiful chunk of halibut, quickly grilled and topped with a melting knob of fresh herb butter. Don't forget to sip on an Aperol Spritz cocktail while doing the grilling over a crackling campfire (or a handy barbecue grill or stovetop grill pan).
At the end of April this year we had our first campfire meal of the season. We were so excited to get outside after our long winter to enjoy the thrill of cooking over an open fire again. Definitely cause for celebration. The snow was finally gone, the sun shining, and there was a faint tinge of green to be seen along ditches and south-facing slopes. Yay! Sabina, my campfire cooking buddy, and I planned our menu for Good Friday on the Easter weekend, but cold weather and threats of snow had us postpone it until a couple weeks later.
Our menu was a Spring theme, so the warmer weather was fitting. As always a connecting thread ran through it, and this time it ended up being citrus, which was found in some way or other in each course. This light and absolutely tasty campfire meal would be good any time during the summer!
Campfire Cooking: A Light Spring Menu
Cream of Fiddlehead Soup with Chive Toasts
Grilled Raddichio with Oranges and Hazelnuts
Grilled Halibut with Spring Herb Butter
Wild Rice and Mushrooms
Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette & Chopped Egg
Fresh Cherry Tomato Salad
Lemon Mousse with Crispy Krumkake Cookies
How to Make an Aperol Spritz Cocktail
Note: 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons (30ml)
- 3 ounces (90ml) prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine)
- 2 ounces (60ml) Aperol (orange & herb Italian aperitivo liqueur)
- 1 ounce (30ml), a splash, club soda
- ice cubes
- orange slice for garnish
Fill a glass half full with ice. Add the prosecco, Aperol, and club soda. Garnish with an orange slice.
Soup Course: Creamy Fiddlehead Soup with Chive Toasts
This delicate green soup is a divine showcase for that spring specialty - fiddlehead ferns (see the recipe below). As this was too early to get fresh fiddleheads in our area (we're always a few weeks later than the rest of the world for any seasonal offerings), we used blanched and frozen fiddleheads (foraged in northern Alberta) I still had in the freezer from last year. The best way to highlight the flavour of these herbacious spring greens is by keeping it simple. We grilled a few of the tightly furled fern fronds for a garnish, and simmered the rest in chicken stock with a bit of onion and celery. A quick whiz with a blender, a splash of rich cream, and this soup was ready to delight. For an added spring touch, we slathered baguette slices thickly with homemade mayonnaise (made with a spritz of lemon juice) and a generous blanket of the season's first chives. (Chive toast is a favourite spring treat that Sabina remembers fondly from childhood in her native Switzerland.)
Salad Course: Grilled Radicchio with Oranges and Hazelnuts
After that delectable bowl of fiddlehead soup, we tickled our tastebuds with a robust grilled salad. I had picked up some lovely Treviso Radicchio heads at the Italian Centre in Edmonton, and we just had to use them for a salad course. Their firm elongated heads are perfect for grilling to get a delightful char and to soften some of their trademark natural bitterness. Slices of char-grilled fresh oranges, sweet grilled onion chunks, and a light citrusy vinaigrette (olive oil, orange and lemon juices, dijon mustard, salt & pepper) balanced out the radicchio's intense flavour - a marriage made in grilling heaven. Chopped toasted hazelnuts added a joyous crunch to this flavourful composed salad.
Entrée: Grilled Halibut with Spring Herb Butter
We treated ourselves to some beautiful halibut, flash-frozen and freshly brought in to a local fishmonger. These meaty chunks of snow white firm-fleshed fish are a pricey delicacy in our parts, but really worth the splurge. We grilled them on a griddle over the fire (6-10 minutes per side - it totally depends on the thickness of the fish and the heat of the fire) until they were just cooked through, still moist inside and tender like butter. We had made up a log of herb butter laced with anchovies and lemon zest and thickly filled with minced fresh herbs (some just peeking out of the garden beds, and some purchased. A thick slice of the prepared butter atop each halibut steak was a crowning glory that softened and melted with the heat of the fish to gently glaze every bite and add its aromatic herby flavour. We served the halibut with wild rice studded with grilled mushrooms and onions, tender-crisp grilled asparagus spears drizzled with a bright lemon vinaigrette and chopped egg, and a simple oil-dressed little salad of fresh cherry tomatoes.
Recipe for Grilled Halibut with Spring Herb Butter
- ½ cup (115gms) salted butter, at room temperature
- 2 anchovy fillets, finely minced
- zest of half a lemon
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup assorted minced fresh herbs, leaves only (chives, parsley, dill, tarragon, chervil, thyme, basil, sorrel, oregano. etc. Avoid stronger-flavoured woody-stemmed herbs like rosemary, sage, etc., or add them very sparingly.)
- 4 halibut steaks (6-8 oz. each)
- olive oil, salt, pepper
Mash the butter with a fork and mash in the anchovy fillets, lemon zest, and pepper. Then mash in the herbs. Scrape the butter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic food wrap, shape into a log, roll the log up in the paper, and twist the ends. Chill for 30 minutes or more. (You can make this the day ahead. The herb butter can also be frozen, then removed from the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing.)
Pat the halibut steaks dry. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 3 to 4 minutes per side over hot coals or a barbecue grill, until just tender. Cut a thick slice of herb butter off the log and immediately place it on top of each piece of the grilled halibut, so the heat of the fish starts melting the butter. Keep any extra butter in the fridge and use it to top any grilled or fried meats, boiled potatoes, or vegetables.
Dessert: Lemon Mousse with Crispy Cookies
Dessert was light and tangy - a wonderful ending for our citrus-themed spring campfire cookout. We cooked up a bright and tangy lemon curd ahead of time (grilling the lemons first for added juiciness), then chilled it and folded in a heap of gently whipped cream. To serve, we topped it with another dollop of whipped cream, a grilled lemon slice and a few berries, and added a couple freshly baked crispy krumkake cookies. Sheer heaven to sit and eat this lovely dessert and watch the twilight slowly darken, the fire still crackling gently into the dark.
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Cream of Fiddlehead Soup with Chive Toasts
- immersion blender or regular blender
- 8 ounces (225gms) blanched fiddleheads, fresh or frozen
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 3 cups (720ml) chicken or vegetable broth
- ½ cup (120ml) whipping cream/heavy cream
for the chive toasts
- slices of baguette or other favourite bread
- chopped fresh chives
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion and celery in the butter until translucent but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the fiddleheads, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Pick out 4 nice fiddleheads and set them aside to use as a garnish later.
- Add the chicken broth and bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 15 minutes, with the lid ajar on the saucepan.
- Blend the soup in the saucepan with an immersion blender until creamy, or transfer it to a regular blender to purée (cover the lid of the blender with a tea towel and hold down the lid, as the soup will be hot and could cause the lid to pop off).
- Add the cream and simmer the soup for an additional minute to reheat it.
- Garnish each bowl with a reserved fiddlehead, and serve with chive toasts.
To make the chive toasts:
- Toast the bread slices, then spread each one with a thick layer of mayonnaise. Thinly slice the chives and pile them up on the toasts to completely cover the mayonnaise.
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