Appetizer of the week: Morels

Ah morel mushrooms….

morels

It is spring here in Michigan. We had a really long winter and once winter leaves and the lilacs are about to bloom, it is my favorite time of year – wild morel mushroom hunting season. Yes, you hunt morels, you don’t find them. You stalk them, creep up on them, stop and stare, pause and pounce on morels, leaving the root behind for next year’s spore action.

three morels

I mentioned it is spring, but Mother Nature has been confusing lately and giving us a 75F day and then the next week is below freezing at night. She has confused the morels too. Normally I wouldn’t expect to start hunting for another week or two and I actually have time off planned to go visit the farm/friends and fam up in Leelanau at the end of May, but when I was raking the lawn this week, I almost raked a cluster of morels.

morels up close with morels

In my yard, yes. Oh bleaders, I did the mushroom dance immediately (one must do the mushroom dance when you find your first mushroom). I think my BF was a bit surprised at my reaction. It is the happiest day of spring when you find your favorite mushroom anywhere, much less in your lawn. I have had a lot of trees (that were dying) removed from my backyard over the last 5 years and have lots of woody mass in the backyard still. Every year when I wash any morels I have found, I carefully save the rinse water and pour it out in the backyard along the fence, hoping the spores will cultivate and that the mushroom gods will smile upon me again.

morels in the yard

It’s working. I found my first morel in my yard 3 years ago when I was rototilling the garden plot. Every year they have been in a totally different location. Last year I found 8. This year, I found 20 30! A  1/2 pound.  I am cooking them up tonight in a most cherished appetizer. Unless you have mushrooms coming out of your ears, then you don’t find very many and to me, they are best eaten alone, with just a few accompaniments.

I prefer them two ways: one way coats them in a light dusting of flour first, the second is cooked the same way, no dusting. Usually I have some wild leeks to go along with it and often find morels and leeks side by side in the forest. However, my backyard is lacking in wild leeks, for now. Often when hunting morels you will find a wild stalk of asparagus and we always slice that up and toss it in too. I found three spindly spears of asparagus in our newly established asparagus patch at the back of the garden. So, the appetizer will be as follows:

morel hunting

Fresh Morels, sliced in half (rinse and inspect for bugs first), lightly dusted in flour of your choice. A stalk of asparagus, sliced thinly like a green onion. Butter – no olive oil for this one. Salt, pepper and thyme – fresh from the herb pot. One clove of garlic, or use a wild leek if you have one, minced – the leek sliced thin.

Melt the butter, toss in your dusted morels and when they are about halfway cooked through, add the rest of the ingredients. Let the morel get a bit crispy – it locks the flavor in behind the flour coating. Eat immediately.

Or the other way, melt the butter, toss in your halved morels (rinse and inspect for bugs first), asparagus, garlic and seasonings. Cook just until the mushrooms have wilted a bit and give off their juices. Immediately pull from the heat and eat the mushrooms using your favorite bread to soak up the juices.

Elixir of the heavens.

sauteed morels

i’m out

Menu of the week: Potatoes!

potatoes

I love potatoes! I grew up on a potato farm (cherries and apples too) in Leelanau County MI. We ate a lot of potatoes. My dad married a southern gal who liked to cook the occasional rice dish. While we were happy for the variation my dad would usually throw on a pot of boiled potatoes when he saw rice. Now I think, how cheeky! Somebody else made you dinner and you want potatoes? Every once in a while I have to remind him of his wayward ways. When I think back, it seems like there was a pot of boiled potatoes most nights. I am sure that isn’t correct, but kid memories you know. At any rate – I still can’t look a plain boiled potato in the eye. I actually gave up eating potatoes for the most part while in college as I was tired of them. French fries too. Then I started cooking them my way and haven’t looked back. I have 6 recipes for potato salad in my head at any given moment. Same with potato gratins. Love me my tators. For the record, my dad has since broadened his horizons (and remarried) and will eat rice now, pasta too. Now, my boyfriend doesn’t like cold potato salads or any cold veg except salads, but I will trade that off for the fact that he will eat tofu.

This weeks menu of the week host is Jacki at Cooking, Illustrated. Pop on over to see what all the other GF bloggers are whipping up this week. I am sure you will drool. I can’t wait to check out their potato recipes. Our menu this week features potatoes three times: a hot potato salad, herb roasted potatoes and a potato gratin. Really I could have made a new potato dish every night, but decided to hold back on the gnocchi, smashed potatoes and bakers. And I didn’t bring an Indian potato dish to the table this week, even though potatoes and tomatoes are not indigenous to India, they have embraced them both with as much excitement as I have.

It is potato planting season. We have several crazy varieties we plan to experiment with in the backyard, starting this week. If you would have told me when I was 15 that I would be planting potatoes in my own backyard garden, I would have starred at you in utter disbelief. My how we change!

volunteer potatoes, volunteer squash? and tomato

Saturday: Indian, company in town so we went to the local Indian restaurant. I had no pots and pans to wash – yippee!

Sunday:

Lunch:Tex Mex: Grass fed beef enchiladas (in a red chile sauce) and goat cheese enchiladas made with Friday night’s carne asada leftover steak cooked down until it fell apart and then added a burst of new spices. We used leftover goat cheese from our cheese platter appetizer and mixed it with a bit of Monterrey jack and green onion. Creamy and tangy.

Dinner Thai: Lard Nah with crispy tofu and kale – I have been jonesin’ for some tofu and it is being squeezed right now between two plates to make it firmer. I made a fresh batch of frozen (sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?) spring rolls with rice paper. This time they are stuffed with crab and pork. We have been watching Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch and it makes me crave crab. I made up a batch this week and then froze them in packages of 6 for Thai nights. They actually fry up better after a little freezer time as it dehydrates the rice paper a bit. Can’t wait to try this batch! Dipping sauce: 1/3 tamari, 1/3 rice vinegar, 1/3 dark toasted sesame oil and topped with slivered green onions.

Monday: Caribbean cook out or possibly walk to our local pub and get bun less burgers and potato soup.
Jerk pork chops (with my homemade jerk paste) on the grill and grilled potato salad with green onions and vinaigrette dressing.

Tuesday: Italian
Penne with tomato cream sauce and Pancetta This looks like a great recipe to use those canned garden tomatoes up.

Wednesday: Korean fusion
Salmon bulgogi with Bok choy from this month’s Bon Appetit and crispy sesame rice.

Thursday: Birthday boy wish meal: Meatloaf, broccoli casserole with swiss and bacon, herb roasted potatoes. Dessert to be decided yet.

Friday: American MidWest
Rotisserie chicken from the local market and potato gratin with swiss and tarragon, roasted asparagus. (leftover chicken to be used next day in a curried chicken salad with dried cherries and almonds- that is the plan anyway)

i’m out

Scallops Laska and Asian shrimp salad

Scallops Laska

This was a tribute to a similar dish that I had at Wild Ginger in Seattle this winter.  I used Jamie Oliver’s Laska recipe (tumeric, lemongrass coconut milk, tamarind were just a few of the ingredients – the book is already back at the library, sorry!) and made up the salad recipe based on memory taste.  This was a really tasty dish, but I wanted the coconut flavor to be more prominent, so I must figure that one out.

Asian shrimp cucumber salad on arugula

The salad was just right.  Shrimp, cucumber, cilantro, chopped peanuts, green onions and crispy fried shallots on top of arugula and dressed in a sweet chile, fish sauce with lots of lime.  Very fresh.  Of course I forgot to write down the dressing recipe, so I will be recreating it from scratch again next time I whip this up.

scallops laska

I love scallops!  For those of you near a Trader Joes, they have the best deal on frozen scallops, unless maybe you live on the coasts.  $10 for a pound. The scoring technique makes them fun to look at too.

i’m out