Morel mushrooms are an exquisite treat found in the ashy remains of the forest fire floor.

Because these mushrooms only germinate when exposed to extremely high heat, morels are available the year after a forest fire has raged through the woods. While destruction does take place, much growth occurs afterwards.

Harvesting the woods in early to mid-summer and then drying this unusual fungus can provide wonderful flavour during the long, cold winter.

To dry morels or other Northern mushrooms, use a food dehydrator, your oven ajar and on lowest heat or simply string the mushrooms with thread and hang to dry in the sun or over a wood stove.

You can enjoy the wild, woodsy flavour of Northern mushrooms in soups, stews, sauces, casseroles or salads like this one. If you didn’t stop to pick any morels last summer, go for a hike to the nearest grocery store as cultivated or button mushrooms work just fine too.


Spinach and Morel Mushroom Salad

INGREDIENTS:

8 cups spinach leaves, washed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup red onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 cups morel or other mushrooms, hydrated (see note) and sliced

Fresh-ground pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 avocado, peeled and sliced

½ cup whole pistachio nuts, toasted

Fresh-grated asiago cheese (about ¼ cup)

PREPARATION:

• Wash spinach and let drain, covered with paper towel.

• If using dried morel mushrooms, hydrate by covering with warm water and let sit for five minutes, then slice.

• If using fresh mushrooms, brush or rinse, slice and set aside.

• Toast shelled pistachios on a pie plate in a 300F oven for about eight minutes.

• In a skillet, heat oil, add onion and sauté for three to five minutes, then add garlic, thyme and maple syrup.

• Cook one to two more minutes, then add the sliced mushrooms.

• Cook until mushrooms are softened, about three more minutes.

• Add salt and pepper.

• Add the balsamic vinegar and stir gently to coat.

• Transfer spinach greens to serving bowl.

• Add the hot mushroom mixture over top of the spinach greens.

• Add the sliced avocado onto the salad.

• Sprinkle lemon juice, pistachio nuts and a fresh grating of asiago cheese.

• Serve immediately.

Yield = 6 servings