This is a tough time of year. The calendar says spring, but I’m still waiting for veggies to pop their little green heads out of the soil. March is historically Colorado’s snowiest month, there will still be frosts in April and the farmers markets won’t really get going until May. I’ve got spring fever so bad – I’m sick of “hearty winter comfort food”. My body is craving fresh salad, ripe fruit, hand-picked herbs…
Magazine covers are still featuring soups and stews and cozy fires. I don’t have a cure for spring fever (other than spring) but I do have a way to treat the symptoms. Get through by cooking creatively with what’s in the pantry right now. The ingredient of the week is dried mushrooms – specifically morels.
Morels are in season during springtime, though not exactly growing in everyone’s backyard. However, dried morels are pretty easy for anyone to find. Chances are your local spice shop or cheese shop carries them. If not, dried morels are readily available through online merchants. These dried mushrooms may seem pricey, but a little goes a long way. Their intricately honeycombed texture combined with colors of gray and brown make a striking visual impact displayed in a glass jar on the counter. I also find it interesting that morels are often described as having a smoky taste. Spring morels are found in areas affected by forest fires in the previous year. Coincidence or terroir?
This week, combat spring fever by adding dried morels to your pantry. Combine morels with fresh mushrooms to add a visual and textural variety to your cooking. Morels bring whimsy into the kitchen and help get you through another week waiting for the fresh veg of spring. Visit ladomestique.com tomorrow for 10 ways to cook with morels.
To add morels to any dish:
Follow the instructions on the package for re-hydrating dried morels. This usually means pouring a bit of hot water from the kettle over the mushrooms and allowing them to sit and plump up for a few minutes. Both the mushrooms and their soaking liquid can be added to a dish for flavor – just strain the liquid of any grit first. Morels are very delicate. I would suggest thinking of dried morels as a garnish and so adding them at the end of cooking. Be gentle with them, and use them to finish a dish by raising the level of presentation with their unique texture and smoky, nutty flavor.