I put fingers to keys this morning to document the results of an adventure. My mom and I were invited to tag along with an expert morel mushroom forager, so of course we did. Between the quiet communion with nature, the thrill of a treasure hunt, and the free food, several of my favorite things combined for a dopamine hit of a great day!
The honor system requires me not to share where we foraged, but I can tell you it was beautiful and big fun. We were a little early in the (very short) season to really hit the jackpot, but as in other foraging adventures, I came home with a load that provided a fantastic dinner – which I felt we had more than earned.
When cooking mushrooms, I favor an approach that lets their earthy goodness shine through without a bunch of extras. Usually it seems to work best to cook them simply with only a little flavor doctoring, then throw them in with some long pasta. In recent months, I have become a big fan of einkorn flour, and have enjoyed pasta made with this ancient grain, in addition to baking with it. If you’re interested in learning more about einkorn or other ancient grains, Nourished Kitchen is an easily-palatable place to begin.
I quartered and rinsed a little less than a pound of morels, checking for bugs along the way – there is big controversy on whether to rinse your mushrooms, but we had just come from the forest, after all. I’m not about to eat some ticks or potato beetles.
(Speaking of potatoes: look at my potato zen garden’s progress in just a few weeks!)
Anyway – I threw the morels in a pan to sear them on high. I use avocado oil for high-heat cooking when I don’t use coconut oil; it has a high smoke point and a neutral taste, and is a healthful source of fat to incorporate with your veggies.
Once the mushrooms browned and while my pasta was cooking, I added shelled peas, several chopped garlic cloves, butter, a little stock, the juice of a baby-sized lemon, and a splash of soy sauce for umami’s sake – following the recommendation of the Serious Eats Umami King (I have proclaimed it) J. Kenji Lopez-Alt . Soy sauce and mushrooms go together like a wink and a smile, and the soy sauce doesn’t change the meal into an Asian one unless you decide to engineer it that way.
When the pasta was nice and toothy, I swirled it into the pan, along with just a little pasta water to add some starchy sauciness, and a glug of dry vermouth – because it was there, and what in the world containing pasta and butter isn’t improved with a glug of vermouth?
Right before serving, I added some chopped fresh parsley and chives from the garden, and a few twists of cracked black pepper. Come on, now. That is one good meal.
Linguine with fresh morels and peas
1 T avocado oil
8 oz. linguine or other long pasta
About 1 lb. fresh morel mushrooms
1 1/2 C. shelled peas, fresh or frozen and defrosted
3 cloves garlic, minced – or a shallot
2-3 T. pastured butter
1/4 C. whatever broth or stock you have around, AND/OR (depending on how saucy you like it), 1/4 C. water from cooking pasta
1 t. soy sauce
1 T. fresh lemon juice
A splash of dry vermouth, if you have it
Fresh, chopped herbs of your choice (I used chives and flat-leaf parsley)
Pepper and salt to taste
Get a medium pot of salted water boiling, and cook linguine to al dente. Drain. This can be done in about the time it takes for the mushrooms to be ready for the pasta.
Heat a large skillet to high, with the oil in it. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, until they are brown and just about to stick to the pan. Add the garlic or shallot and cook for a few seconds longer, then add the peas, butter, stock, soy sauce, and lemon juice and reduce the heat. Cook until it gets saucy. Add the pasta and mix until it’s incorporated. Sometimes tongs help this process, with long pasta.
Add a splash of vermouth and stir it in. Turn off the heat, stir in the fresh herbs, and serve into two (very full) or three (moderately full) bowls, topping with black pepper, salt if you need it, and a little more butter if you feel indulgent. Enjoy with wine – this part is a must!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be sure to obtain morels from a source you trust WITH YOUR LIFE. Poisonous mushrooms are no joke. The false morels look different enough that someone who’s paying attention won’t mistake them for the real thing, but that’s no reason not to carefully inspect the goods.