Morels are now in season

The foodies’ delicacy is here for a short time; take advantage of them while they are still in season

Cathi Litzenberger

Morning Star Columnist

Morels are one of the most desired wild mushrooms in the world, and must be gathered in the wild since they can’t be farmed. They are considered a delicacy among foodies.

In our area of B.C. you want to start looking in April or May, as morels are one of the few spring species of mushrooms.

If there is a silver lining that may emerge from the destruction caused by B.C.’s wildfires, (and this year’s significant spring rains), it’s the morel mushroom. They literally rise from the ashes the year after a forest has been ravaged by fire. Not all morels are found in the sooty aftermath of a forest fire, however, and this past week some friends on Pleasant Valley Road gifted me a bag of morels picked right from their back field and some from their lawn. Who would have guessed: no wild fire there!

Morels are delicious and nutritious, and the following recipes are just begging a try. The first combines fresh asparagus with morels in a delicious pizza. The second is a wonderful recipe if you find enough to simply enjoy this amazing mushroom on its own.

Morel and Asparagus Crispy Pizza

1 package active dry yeast

1-1/4 cups warm water (105 degrees F. to 115 degrees F.)

2 -2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups semolina flour

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

10 ounces morel mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup sliced shallots (about 4)

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme

8 ounces thin asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 cups)

Cornmeal

Olive oil

Cracked black pepper

In a large bowl combine yeast and water. Let stand until yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, semolina flour, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and sugar. Mix by hand or on low speed of an electric mixer until well-combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining all-purpose flour for 6 to 8 minutes or until a smooth elastic dough is formed. Transfer dough to a bowl lightly coated with additional olive oil, turning to coat all sides. Cover and let rise in a warm place until about doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high, cook and stir mushrooms in hot butter for 2 to 3 minutes until mushrooms just begin to soften. Add shallots, wine and thyme. Cook and stir for 4 to 6 minutes or until shallots are tender. Add asparagus; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Grease and dust 2 extra-large baking sheets with cornmeal. Punch dough down and divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll out one portion of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness (don’t worry if its not perfectly round).

Transfer to one prepared baking sheet. Brush lightly with additional olive oil. Top with half the mushroom mixture and half the cheese; season to taste with pepper. Bake in oven on lowest rack about 12 minutes until crispy and brown. While first pizza is baking, repeat with remaining dough and toppings.

Sautéed Morel Mushrooms

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

8 ounces morel mushroom, cleaned, trimmed, and split in half lengthwise

1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon, optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon fresh juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, or water

1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs such as chives, chervil, or parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until well-browned, about 4 minutes total. Reduce heat to medium-high and add shallots and garlic (if using). Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.

Add butter, soy sauce, lemon juice, and chicken stock or water and cook, swirling pan, until liquid reduces and morels are coated in a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Stir in herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

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