Morels and Asparagus Over Pasta

For the longest time, I didn’t get what the big deal with morels were.  Will would ooh and aah every time fresh morels appeared in a springtime menu.  He would get ecstatic when the Mushroom Man at the farmer’s market got them in. At $30-40 a pound, I just didn’t get what was so great with them.

It wasn’t until the last time Will made morels in a simple dish with just scrambled eggs that it finally clicked. They were earthy, savory, had a weirdly spongey and crunchy texture, and they were good. I can’t believe an umami fiend like me took so long to finally enjoy morels.

Today, I made a special trip to the Santa Monica farmers’ market just to seek out morels.  Luckily, the Mushroom Man had plenty of them and I ended up with half a paper bag full of them.  The Chinese in me cringes at paying $10 for half a small paper bag of mushrooms. But man, they were worth it.

morels and asparagus pasta Morel and asparagus pasta with a Rancho Sisquoc ’95 Cab S.

I sauteed them up with some shallots, fresh asparagus, and a cashew cream sauce I made and they were wonderful on top of pasta.  I had bought a lemon to squeeze into the sauce when I finished so that the acidity could balance out the earthy, rich, savory taste of the sauce, but I forgot completely about it because I couldn’t wait to taste the dish. It was everything I dreamed it would be.

Yes, I am officially on the morel bandwagon now.

Hedgehog Mushrooms in Farro Risotto


I love mushrooms and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know about hedgehog mushrooms sooner. I always thought that ‘hedgehog’ was just another name for morels.  It wasn’t until I ordered a dish of farro risotto with hedgehog mushrooms that I realized they were completely different!  Since I had that dish up in SF with my co-workers, I wanted to recreate it at home, but I was afraid that hedgehog mushrooms would be scarce in LA.

Mushroom Man to the rescue! I happened to be near the Santa Monica Farmer’s market on Saturday and popped by the Mushroom Man’s booth and he had hedgehog mushrooms! At $20/lb, they’re more expensive than my usual mushroom purchases, but I couldn’t let this opportunity pass.  Lucky for my wallet, I let the opportunity of buying black truffles from him pass.

The first time I had risotto was when Will cooked it for me.  He had been slaving for hours over the stove with his home-made broth and risotto making. I took one bite and said, “Huh, it just tastes like porridge.”  The big deal of risotto didn’t really click with me. But farro risotto, I can get behind!

I didn’t want to do anything too complicated with the mushrooms since I wanted their natural flavors to shine through, so I just sauteed them with some shallots and white wine.  I probably went a little heavy-handed with the wine, but it still tasted pretty good.

Combined with some slow-cooked dinosaur kale, and farro risotto, it made for an easy Saturday meal.  Will even contributed with a simple but delicious salad of mixed greens, and sliced kumquat and fennel.


Farro risotto:

2.5 cups farro
1 medium sized carrot
1 medium sized white onion
1 stalk celery
2 sticks of thyme (roughly 1/2 tsp dried thyme?)
3 cups veggie broth mixed with 3 cups water
olive oil

Dice onions and cook them in some olive oil until translucent. I wasn’t trying to caramelize them, so I didn’t wait for them to color.  In the meantime, dice the carrots and celery in roughly the same size.  When the onions are translucent, put the carrots and celery in. Cook these on medium heat till tender. It’s okay if they caramelize a little.  When the vegetables are tender, pour in a few more teaspoons oil, and then the farro risotto. Stir to mix. Turn the heat up to high and pour in enough broth + water mixture to barely cover. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Let that come to a boil, turn the heat down to low, throw in the thyme, and simmer with the lid on.

Every 10 minutes, take the lid off, give it a stir and top off with more broth+water if it gets too dry. It should be somewhat soupy in there, but not as if the farro were all submerged in water. Cook like that until the farro’s done, adding broth+water when needed. I’m not sure how long that took since I was prepping the rest of my meal and I can never figure out how long it takes for farro to cook.

Porcini are here!

Porcini Mushroom

A trip to the Santa Monica Saturday farmer’s market yielded a small paper bag full of procini mushroom. The mushroom man was in a good mood and threw in a couple extra pieces.

At first, when we looked at them, the BF and I didn’t know what was going on. There was some weird green, brownish stuff on the bottom that we that was dirt or dirty stuff. It’s a good thing we asked the mushroom men though, because they explained that those were the gills and the best part about these mushrooms. When cooked, that part gets soft and practically melts like butter. Some people call it vegetarian foie gras.

The mushrooms had a powerful, strong, earthy taste. I could see some truth to the foie gras comments. They were delicious just browned on the pan with a dash of salt. I was sad to see how much they reduced once cooked though.