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Morel Mission 2009

 

Morels

Mushrooms are a uniquely operating vegetable. Their survival relies on the decaying organisms that surround them, unlike most other veggies, which synthesize the energy of sunlight into stored sugars through the process of photosynthesis. Morels are a type of mushroom made of a hollowed stem and honeycomb-like cap. They tend to grow at the base of, or in the surrounding area of trees that had deceased during the preceding winter.Morel Hunt

Another difference between the mushroom and other members of its vegetable family is the makeup of its cell walls, which consists of chitin, rather than cellulose. This is the same material that makes up the outer skeletal system of an insect. Appetizing, right? Although the life cycle of fungi out is not entirely appealing, anything with fresh morels is a delectable treat of earthy goodness.

 

I was really looking forward to my first Morel hunt this year. Since I was now part of the family, my in-laws threw out an early invite. Prime hunting season is in late Spring. We carpooled to a secret location, (I shall never tell), and wandered into the woods. “Keep your eyes out for dead trees,” said my father-in-law, Carroll. He has been a Morel hunter for decades and is our in-house expert.

Late May 2009 030

Although ths trip was a success, I am secretly hoping for a memory lapse prior to next year’s hunt. Morel season also coincides with that of the tick. I found quite a few on my clothes following the hunt. Luckily my sweet mother-in-law was happy to oblige me in peeling them off. It took me awhile to move past this year’s tick run-in, so don’t be surprised if next year’s entry takes place in the produce market at the Wedge Coop in Uptown, which happens to sell these rare delicacies if you’re willing to pay up.

Here is my father-in-law’s recipe for Morel sauce. Yum.

1. Take fresh morels ,wash them, drain off excess moisture
2. Put morels in fry-saute pan heat and drive off water in the morels they will get smaller due to loss of water.
3. Pour off the morel water from the heated morels into separate container.
4. Saute morels in butter and garlic salt or fresh garlic (to taste). Keep pan and do not clean yet.
5. Take morel water and mix with equal amount of heavy cream.
6. Place two spoonfuls of starch in a bit of cold water and mix until smooth.
7. Add starch to morel cream/water mix and heat in sautee pan with leftover butter, garlic, and morel bits until boil and mixture thickens.
8.  Add morel sauce to morels and put on pasta, steak, or chicken. Yum.

Morel Sauce

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 Grilled Artichoke with Herb Dipping Sauce

History of the Artichoke:

This vegetable is a member of the Daisy family and is native to the Mediterranean, where it was originally considered a delicacy and aphrodesiac in Rome. The artichoke was introduced to American cuisine by way of Italian immigrants who settled in the Half Moon Bay area of the California Coast at the beginning of the 20th century. There they planted fields of artichokes, and began shipping them out East. Today California still provides nearly 100% of the artichoke supply in the United States.

Artichoke sales and possession were banned in New York for a brief period during the 1920s. Ciro Terranova, a mafia member known as the “Artichoke King” began buying up all crates being transferred from the West Coast to the East Coast and reselling them for a profit. He was notorious for harassing growers and distributors. There are even stories of him personally massacring competitor crops by taking a machete and chopping down artichoke fields plant by plant. The Mayor of New York declared a statewide ban on the vegetable because of these so-called “Artichoke Wars.” However, the Mayor personally loved the vegetable and the ban only lasted one week.

The edible part of the artichoke lies in the fleshy part of the protective outer leaves (bracts) and the inner heart (flower base). The outside leaves are consumed as follows; pull out a leaf, pinch the top half withyour thumb and index finger, place the bottom half in your mouth, close your mouth, pull out the leaf while sliding off fleshy part with your teeth, discard leaf. After leaves are gone, the heart (flower base) can be eaten by spooning out the furry-looking choke (flowerets).

References:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Collier, 1984.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Stradley, Linda. “History of Artichokes”. What’s Cooking America. 2004. <http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/ArtichokeHistory.htm>

This recipe is quite simple and a wonderful spring or summer treat. We use a charcoal grill, however, if you are sans grill you may also use a broiler for the latter part.  I use the following herbs from our garden; italian parsley, rosemary, chives, lemon basil. You can use these, or whatever herbs you like.

Ingredients:

Artichoke(s)

Lemon

Fresh Herbs

Light Mayonnaise

Salt and Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

Fill a pot of water large enough to hold the number of artichokes you plan to make. Turn on high to bring to a boil. While  water is heating prepare the artichokes. If the stem is attached, slice it off. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the ends of the leaves (not necessary, but these guys are prickly so getting rid of them will provide a more pleasant eating experience). I like to use a sharp knife at the top of the artichoke. There are just too many leaves to snip here. Simply chop of the top, usually about an inch. The top of the artichoke should resemble a flat-top haircut.

Once water is boiling drop prepped artichoke(s) in and cover with a lid. Bring the heat down to medium and steam for about 20 minutes. During this time you may turn on the grill to medium-high (or broiler if you are using one) and prepare the dipping sauce. Using a food processor (or blender) place about 3/4 cup of mayonnaise, half of a fresh-squeezed lemon, a handful of your herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend.

Once artichokes are steamed drain them in the sink. I like to use a strainer. Be sure the artichoke(s) is upside down when draining. Once all excess water is gone, transfer whole artichoke to a cutting board. Cut artichoke in half, revealing leafy middle. Spoon out flowerets (furry looking section right above heart) and discard.

 Artichoke

 June 2009 015

 

Rub artichokes with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to grill or broiler and prepare as follows:

Grill:  Lay artichokes on hard outside and grill for 5-10 minutes or until leaves turn golden brown and begin to curl inwards.

Broiler: Lay artichokes on hard outside on a cooking sheet lined with aluminum foil until leaves turn golden brown and begin to curl inwards.

Enjoy with the sauce!!

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