Make Ahead

Sauteed Fern Shoots (or Asparagus) and Shrimp with Lemon Balm Pesto

May 12, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Serves 2 generously, 4 as a light meal or part of a meal
Author Notes

In Hawaii, edible fern shoots are called pohole or ho`i`o. This week’s CSA treasure was a big bunch of lemon balm. With Didi Emmons’ Vietnamese Pesto (from her cookbook Vegetarian Planet – which I love!) on my mind, I decided to make something using both ingredients and this is what I came up with.
Note: Asparagus would also be lovely in this dish, and linguine or another pasta could stand in for the rice noodle,
if desired. For a vegetarian option, omit the shrimp and add up to a cup more fiddleheads or asparagus. —gingerroot

What You'll Need
  • For the Lemon Balm Pesto
  • 1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, washed and dried
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, washed and dried
  • 1 large garlic clove, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced almonds (unsalted)
  • 1 small hot chile, such as Hawaiian chile pepper or Thai bird chile, trimmed, seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon gluten free Tamari
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus more to taste, if necessary)
  • For the Pohole, Shrimp and Noodles
  • 6 ounces dried rice noodles (Bahn pho, flat rice noodles)
  • 2 cups cups pohole (fern shoots), rinsed, trimmed, cut into 1-2 inch lengths (or Asparagus)
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, deveined peeled
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  1. Bring a kettle (or pot) of water to boil.
  2. Place dried noodles in a baking pan. When the water just begins to boil, pour or ladle water over noodles to cover. Let noodles sit for 10 minutes. Check the consistency. I let my noodles sit for 15 minutes and they were just right, with a little bite to them. Thoroughly rinse noodles under cold water to stop them from cooking. Place in a bowl, and coat with a drizzle of sesame oil to prevent them from sticking. Set aside.
  3. Make pesto: Combine lemon balm, mint, garlic, almonds, chile and tamari in a blender. Turn machine on, and drizzle in oil. Scrape sides with spatula, add lemon juice and puree until combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. If you are using soy sauce instead of tamari, you might need a little more than one teaspoon. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, heat sesame and canola oils. Add fern shoots and sauté for a minute or two. Add garlic, shrimp, and cook, stirring, until shrimp are opaque in the center, about 3 minutes.
  5. In a large shallow bowl, gently combine noodles, sautéed pohole and shrimp, and lemon balm pesto. Serve and enjoy immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • gingerroot
  • Panfusine
  • Burnt Offerings
    Burnt Offerings
  • hardlikearmour

Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.

9 Reviews

SueSLP May 15, 2011
This recipe completely shouts "spring". In Vermont, we call the fern shoots...fiddleheads. Well, I think we are taking about the same thing? Outside I see fiddleheads every where...yum. Our spring is bursting at the seams right now.
gingerroot May 16, 2011
Thank you, SueSLP! Yes, as far as I know, pohole is the type of edible fern shoot that you call fiddlehead, that grows here. I would love to hear your thoughts about it if you try it.
gingerroot May 13, 2011
NOTE: I made this again tonight, however I had made the rice noodles earlier in the day. Prepared as written above (with the noodles lightly coated in a drizzle of sesame or olive oil - I found it easiest to coat by tossing oiled noodles with my fingers) if you place a damp paper towel over the surface of the noodles and then cover the bowl with saran wrap, the noodles can be made up to 6 hours in advance and they will be perfectly cooked for this recipe. Just remove the bowl from the refrigerator while you are prepping the rest of the recipe and toss lightly with your fingers to make sure they are not sticky (mine were not sticky at all).
Panfusine May 12, 2011
The Lemon Pesto sounds soo divine!
gingerroot May 12, 2011
Thank you, Panfusine! I posted this in a rush, and forgot to include that it would make a lovely vegetarian dish without the shrimp.
Burnt O. May 12, 2011
Sigh...I am going to be making recipes from this week's contest for weeks. You get lemon balm in your CSA?? Oh - I miss Hawaii! This sounds absolutely lovely. I doubt I can find fern shoots, or fresh lemon balm here, but it sounds amazing. I can get fiddle heads right now, perhaps I can come up with a lemon pesto instead.
gingerroot May 12, 2011
Thanks, Linda! I feel the same way...there are so many good looking spring recipes posted. The lemon balm is has a lovely fragrance and subtle grassy lemon flavor. Maybe a combination of lemon basil and lemon grass with the mint? This was the first time there was lemon balm, but I'm so glad - I'm definitely going to plant some in my garden!
hardlikearmour May 12, 2011
Wow, this sounds like heaven! I will have to wait for my lemon grass to grow, and probably by that time will need to sub asparagus but this is definitely on my to-do list.
gingerroot May 12, 2011
Thank you, hardlikearmour! It was really yummy and came together quickly for a flavorful weeknight meal!