Rite of spring: Fiddlehead and morel salad


Phil Lempert

TODAY Food Editor;

THIS WEEK: Fiddlehead Fern and Morel Mushroom Salad from chef Melissa Perello of Fifth Floor Restaurant in San Francisco.

San Francisco’s Fifth Floor Restaurant specializes in serving dishes made with seasonal ingredients. With the start of spring, it’s fitting that we bring you chef Melissa Perello’s recipe for Fiddlehead Fern and Morel Mushroom Salad. Around this time of year, you can find fiddleheads and morels in forests. Tender, young fiddlehead fronds resemble the tops of fiddles, hence their name. The taste of these unusual greens is reminiscent of asparagus, yet nutty. Don’t be tempted to pick these ferns yourself, as some are poisonous. Restaurants commonly use a variety called the ostrich fern. Meanwhile, morels are related to truffles. If you cannot procure these seasonal items at your local market, green beans can be substituted for fiddlehead ferns and any mushroom can be substituted for morels. So welcome spring with this delicious, but simple salad!


Mark Leet

Born in Hackensack, N.J., Perello knew at a young age that she wanted to be a chef. Encouraged by her mother, she tried recipes from cookbooks as well as the cooking shows of Julia Child and Nathalie Dupree. One day after school, Perello’s mother came home to find her 12-year-old daughter de-boning a leg of lamb.

Perello's first professional job was in the kitchen of a country club in Houston, Texas. After high school, Perello moved to New York, where she studied at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. While in San Francisco on vacation, Perello dined at Aqua ,and after a fortuitous conversation with Mark LoRusso, chef de cuisine, she was invited to intern in the kitchen. Following her graduation from the CIA, Perello was offered a job at Aqua. After working there for two years, Perello transferred to Aqua’s sister restaurant, Charles Nob Hill. Perello cites her time working alongside Ron Siegel at that restaurant as a defining experience. “Ron taught me how to create relationships with purveyors and make ingredients shine,” she says.

Fiddlehead Fern and Morel Mushroom Salad with Winchester Aged Gouda is served at Fifth Floor Restaurant for  $17. This recipe serves six.

( rated)
Serves 6 Servings
Get the recipe


Food Editor Phil Lempert brings you the latest news and advice about shopping and cooking.

Want to nominate your favorite restaurant dish for a "Steal This Recipe" feature? Just e-mail Phil at (or use the mail box below) with the name of the restaurant, city and state, and the dish you would like to have re-created. Want to know more about Phil and food? Visit his Web site at