Morels and asparagus are spring’s dynamic duo

Thick or thin, springtime asparagus has no better complement than spring’s most coveted mushroom.

Morels bring their distinctive, buttery earthiness to the season’s newly sprung herbs and vegetables. After a winter of heavier cooking, tender fungus and produce remind us that it’s time for a lighter hand. Pasta dishes are reliable repositories for just-cooked ingredients.

This one, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, infuses the noodles with the essence of morels, captured in the water for reconstituting dried mushrooms. If you only have fresh morels — or conversely just dried —either could be used solo. But the duo leave no question of the morel’s singular status among mushrooms.

Tribune News Service photo

Pasta With Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus

1/2 ounce package dried morel mushrooms (about 5 to 6 mushrooms)

3 ounces (or more as desired) fresh morels

1 pound dry spaghetti

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

3 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 pound asparagus, rinsed, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup vegetable stock

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a large bowl, cover the dried morels with 8 cups boiling water, set aside until morels are tender, for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, clean the fresh morels, placing them in another bowl of water and swishing them around to remove any dirt. Remove, pat dry and cut them in half (if some morels are small, leave them whole.)

Using a slotted spoon, remove reconstituted mushrooms (reserving liquid) to a cutting board and slice in half lengthwise.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour reserved soaking liquid into a large stockpot. Add additional water sufficient to cook pasta, bring to a boil. Season water with kosher salt, add the spaghetti; cook, stirring, until al dente, for about 10 minutes or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute; do not let it brown. Add the shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Add reserved morels and fresh morels, plus the asparagus and stock, bring to a boil. Cook, covered, until asparagus is tender, for about 2 minutes. Uncover, stir in the cream, cook until slightly reduced, for about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add cooked pasta, the lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and cheese. Toss until evenly combined. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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