07 June 2007
The Morel of the Story
Walking into the market this week, there was a woman with a small table of mushrooms, some boxes of cremini and button varieties, as well as some amazingly sculptural pieces that looked as if they'd been carved right off a tree trunk, big arms of oyster mushrooms ready to reach out and grab you. Gesturing to one of only two boxes, I asked, "are those morels," pronouncing the word somewhat like "moral." The tie-dye clad lady let out a big chortle, "well I don't know if we have morals, but we do have mor-ELS," she laughed, the emphasis resoundingly on the second symbol. Right, I said sheepishly, realizing my mistake.
It was an immediate flashback to the time I was a quiet ten-year-old who spent most of my time with my nose buried in a book. I had read almost every Nancy Drew mystery, nearly a hundred of those yellow-spined volumes, when a family friend stopped by the house one day. "How's the titian haired sleuth," he asked, jokingly referring to the description that opens every mystery. "You mean 'sleth,' " I replied in complete seriousness. The whole time I'd been reading the books to myself, I'd been pronouncing the word 'sleuth' as 'sleth' in my head, never having the opportunity to be contradicted. It took a trip to the dictionary to convince me I was wrong, and the incident quickly became a family joke.
Now years later, it had happened again, though in my defence, the difference between morel and moral is quite subtle. Of course I'd read about and even eaten the mushrooms before, but I hadn't spent much time talking about them. It was also my first time cooking fresh morels, and combined with some spring produce, they were divine. I'd never understood what the fuss about morels was, but now I do. They were full or earthy flavor and aroma. And if you look for them in your area, don't forget to ask for mor-ELs.
Sauté of Asparagus, Morels, and Favas
If fresh morels are unavailable, you can substitute rehydrated dried morels.
2 oz fresh morel mushrooms
2 cups shelled fava beans (or substitute baby lima beans or edamame)
1 1/2 lb thin asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
4 tbl butter
optional: fresh mint for serving
1. Submerge the mushrooms in warm water and agitate them to remove any grit. Drain thoroughly and pat dry. Halve or quarter any large mushrooms.
2. Prepare a pan of boiling salted water. Cook the favas in the water for 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and immediately rinse with cold water (leave the pan of water boiling). Use your fingers to remove the tough outer shells from the favas. (If using lima beans or edamame, you'll also want to blanch them in boiling water until just tender) Repeat the blanching with the asparagus pieces, cooking for 3 minutes and rinsing under cold water.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté morels, stirring, until tender and they've released some of their juices, about 4-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the asparagus and favas, stirring over medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the remaining two tablespoons butter to glaze the vegetables and season with salt. Serve immediately.