Nothing says summer more than fresh strawberries, sweet corn on the cob and ripe peaches. In Canada the summer harvest comes later than the States but I’m already anticipating my first bite of summer – sweet, locally grown Bing cherries.
Before the summer though, there is the spring harvest. This past June there’s been a lush supply of asparagus in the market. I love seeing rows of green asparagus bunches, lined up and standing tall with thick round stems and tight knotty heads. I can’t resist buying them.
I’ve been over-dosing on asparagus for dinner. I roast them in the oven with Warba potatoes, carrots and celery or grill them on homemade pizza with cherry tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and spinach.
My favorite way of cooking asparagus is stir-frying, as it maximizes on flavor, texture and color.
This spring I discovered another gustatory sensation that was a perfect complement: sautéed wild mushrooms.
One of the advantages of living on the west coast, is access to cultivators and foragers of rare or hard to find foodstuff. I have a Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild (TUCG) membership which allows me to purchase goods normally reserved for gourmet restaurants. One of the TUCG suppliers is Ponderosa Mushrooms who specializes in wild mushrooms.
This last month, I’ve been cooking mushrooms that I’d previously only read about. Fresh mushrooms like morels, porcini and shitake.
Typically, morels and porcini are sold in dried form. Long ago, I remember visiting a fine foods market and purchasing a very small, very expensive packet of dried morels. I was so afraid of cooking it, that when I eventually did, they had crumbled into a dry brown dust.
This year, I saw that I could purchase fresh morels through the TUCG. At $10 a pack, they were expensive but less so (I rationalized) than a burger & fries. Healthier, too!
Fresh morels look peculiar. They’re dark and woody, with a corrugated shell and a firm texture that softens on cooking. The caps are long and hollow and must be split open then washed thoroughly to remove sand and debris. This step is not be overlooked. I was shocked to see the murky rinse water from the first wash. I had to soak, rinse and drain them four times to get them clean.
To cook, I sautéed them in garlic and butter, deglazed with sherry and seasoned with salt & pepper. It tasted divine. The cooked mushrooms have a meaty texture that’s reminiscent of tender beef steak. It went very well with asparagus and it was much-much better than a burger!
Other mushrooms that I’ve cooked this month:
Portobellos – grilled in portobello and cheese sandwiches
Fresh shitakes – pan fried and added to rissotto
Dried shitakes – rehydrated and stewed in a broth. I keep a jar of these cooked mushrooms in the fridge. It’s a handy and flavorful addition to stir fries, chow mein or braised dishes.
Fresh porcini – sautéed and added to a mixed mushroom omelette
Regular button mushrooms – added to any and everything.