May 04, 2008

Morels and Nostalgia

There are some places, people and things with which we are inextricably linked. Childhood homes seem to have a hold on people. Even when you’ve lived away for longer than you lived there, something still binds you to the place where you grew up. Memories of that place are often tinged with gold. But when you go back, it’s not the same. There are new houses, new signs, new people. The landscape has changed, the trees have grown up and so have you. When I visit the place where I grew up, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. It’s as though Madonna’s This Used To Be My Playground is always playing in the background. But even though the place has changed, the magic still remains. If I close my eyes I can still see the sparkling water as the last rays of sunlight sink below the horizon, the sky ablaze in reds and purples. I can still feel the sand between my toes or a warm summer breeze on my skin. I can still taste strawberries from the garden or penny candy from the Beach Memory general store. I can still hear kids playing baseball at the end of the road or the gentle baaaahhh of a baby lamb looking for its bottle. And if I take a deep breath I can still smell the earthy scent of a fresh morel.

When I was little I hated mushrooms. I picked them out of spaghetti sauce, omelets and anything else my parents tried to sneak them into. I hated all mushrooms except for morels. Morels were different. Because every spring after the temperature climbed to just the right degree and we would get just enough rain, the morels would begin to pop up and my family would go morel hunting. We went to the same places every year and without fail, the morels would be there. All we needed were our morel eyes and the proper morel stick to find them. As soon as I spotted my first morel I would call out to let everyone else know. Dad would then hand me his smooth silver pocket knife so that I could cut it off at the base. I would then cup the morel in my palms, lift it my nose and breathe it in. As the saying goes, where there’s one, there’s more. After finding the first one, the second one usually wasn’t far off. We would pick until our basket was full and then return home. When I was little we used to find so many morels that we’d feast on some immediately and then lay the rest out on the deck in the sunshine to dry so that we had morels all year long. The best way to eat them was simply to fry them up fresh with butter and they were delicious. Not only was I lucky enough to have morels for dinner, but we’d also usually go foraging for fiddleheads at the same time of year and fry some of those up too.

This year I returned to the place I grew up, in search of morels. I went with my parents and we met up with friends of ours who still live there. These friends are the owners of the baby lambs, (who eventually become sheep) and they have a fabulous wool businesss, The Philosopher’s Wool. They are also the source of my wool when I make silly things like knitted cupcakes Spring at their house means lambing season and the little guys are too cute to resist. I remember years where there were lambs, that for one reason or another needed to be bottle fed and they would stay in the house instead of the barn. I loved going to visit the bottle lambs. And while I was there I would go out to the chicken coop to collect eggs, always happy when there were some to find. I could use a chicken coop these days for the amount of eggs I go through.

But back to the morels. It was still early in the season when I returned to my old haunts to look for them. We were looking for the black morels as they come up first, followed by the more blond coloured ones and not in the same places either. There’s a certain place where we go early in the season and then it changes later on. On this particular journey we only found 8 morels. This is a far cry from the days when I would come home with an overflowing basket. Like I said though, places, people and things change and I guess morels are no exception. Change is inevitable but I’ll still pine away for the days of overflowing baskets, sand dunes and baseball at the end of the road.

The recipe you see here is from Jamie Oliver and is an Asparagus and Potato Tart. The only thing I’ve changed is to add fresh morels and fiddleheads, (which makes it a million times better, but you could still make it without and it’ll be pretty good too). As a bonus, the asparagus was picked fresh from the garden, some of the first spears this year.

Asparagus and Potato Tart (From Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home via the Foodnetwork)

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Sea salt
1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed
8 ounces filo pastry
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated Lancashire cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar
3 large organic or free-range eggs
1 (8-ounce) container heavy cream
Pinch fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Get an ovenproof dish - I've used many different shapes and sizes. Layer the sheets of filo pastry in the dish, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about 1-inch hang over the edge. You want to get the pastry about 5 layers thick. Put a clean, damp kitchen towel over the top and put aside.

When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream and stir into your cheesy mashed potato. Grate in the nutmeg, season well with pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. Take your blanched asparagus and line them up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter and pop into the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve just as you would a quiche for a quick lunch or supper, with a salad.

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54 comments:

jasmine said...

I hear you about returning to places where fond memories lie...

A friend is very lucky as she has morels appearing on her property. She doesn't get many, but the few she does pick are so very prized.

j

KJ said...

Lovely post Brilynn. I know exactly how you feel. You are so lucky to have fresh wild mushrooms!!!

Peabody said...

Fresh from the garden asparagus...awesome. This looks super good. mushrooms have yet to show up at the Farmer's Market...I am waiting.

Amy said...

What a terrific post!

I remember seeing Jamie make this and thinking to myself "oh, that looks amazing." But your additions of morels and fiddleheads...now THAT's amazing!! :) Sounds really spring-y and delicious.

LyB said...

Such a great post Brilynn, now you've made me nostalgic! I haven't had fiddleheads in ages! My dad used to go fishing and he'd come home with baskets full of fish and bags full of fiddleheads! Man, those were the days... That tart looks amazing, so comforting too.

glamah16 said...

I wish I ould find fresh morels. I only see them dries and they are very expensive. Lucky you. I'd put them in everything.

Annie said...

Great memories. I don't think I've ever had a morel. They sound wonderful and the tart looks so delicious!

Manggy said...

Nice post, Brilynn-- cutest. lamb. evah! :) I've never tasted a morel before, but I am a mushroom lover (since childhood, yet) and I would love to try one (or twenty, whatever) :) Gorgeous pie!

Pixie said...

A beautiful well written post- as others have pointed out how wonderful to be able to come across those mushrooms. Adore Jamie's recipes too.

Ann said...

Wow, wow, wow! That looks so delicious! I love your story, too... how wonderful to gather what you eat.

Warda said...

Jamie's new show is my favorite show on the food network. Too bad they air it on Saturday morning. That's so stupid.
Nothing like home indeed.

Danielle said...

That looks wonderful! And I'm so jealous that you can just find wild mushrooms. I love morels, but I have to buy them at the greenmarket to get my fix.

Mandy said...

What a great post, Brilynn. Thanks for sharing your childhood memory, and this great recipe. Asparagus is expensive here, I wish I have a garden full of them in my backyard. :)

Madam Chow said...

It's lovely - the post AND the tart!

Deborah said...

I have actually never had a morel, so I'm jealous of you! This tart looks so wonderful!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I remember that the first time I ever saw morels was on your blog, sweetie - one more thing I learned from you.
Lovely post, Bri.
I wish someday when I have kids they will have good memories of their own, too.

Kelly-Jane said...

That's a interesting post :) I've never seen fresh morels, only dried. Your tart looks delicious.

I've tagged you :)

Lyra said...

Isn't foraging for your own food fun? I absolutely love it! I have no knowledge of mushrooms, unfortunately, the morel is the only one that I would be sure enough of to pick wild, as I am pretty clueless about the others and need to learn from an expert before I go poison myself...

noble pig said...

I love this combo, it sounds just fabulous! And it's beautiful.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

What magical childhood memories! I have never tasted a morel. Could it possibly live up to the write-up you've given?

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

One of my blog readers told me that my morels disappeared because I picked all of them one year. I guess you are supposed to leave a few behind each season. I didn't know!

Gigi said...

Beautiful tart Brilynn! I loved the post! I keep checking the farmers market for exciting mushrooms but alas no luck yet.

Dhanggit said...

lovely post sweetie, it is always nice to bring back good old memories :-) btw, those wild mushrooms look gorgeous!!the tart looks absolutely delicious!

Kristen said...

Brilynn,
I have always had such a fondness for the home I was in from birth - second grade. Isn't that interesting how they do have such a hold on us.
I remember walking up one time and explaining that I used to live there and asking if I can come inside to look around. Luckily, the people did not believe I was psyhotic and took me in. It was NOTHING like what I remembered... they had made so many changes, but I couldn't help but feel like I belonged there. I miss that house!
Lovely dish you have here!

Rosie said...

A wonderful post!!

Wow morels too!! Wonderful tart it looks delsih :)

Rosie x

Augustina said...

This looks so delicious! I'm going to have to try making this one. Thanks for sharing!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

This looks really tasty! I'm jealous of all the food bloggers finding morels left and right--as a former mushroom hater (now lover) I need to try these ASAP! And that lamb photo is great

PheMom said...

Oh, this looks really good! I love the combination!

Nan said...

How lucky to have morels near your family's house, and to have the wonderful stories of hunting them!

Kevin said...

I wanted to try some morel mushrooms but when I saw the $40/lb price tag at the farmers market I decided to pass on them. That tart looks really good!

Lina said...

Ive never heard of mrels before. Very interesting...

Lina said...

Ive never heard of mrels before. Very interesting...

farida said...

First time I am seeing morels. You just educated me:) What a beautiful story with your childhood memories. Oh, your pie looks delicious!

Precious Moments said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Precious Moments said...

Love this story and I learnt a new word. Have something for you. Checked it out.http://preciousmoments66.blogspot.com/2008/05/yummy-blog-award.html

Medena said...

What I great post; I have enjoyed reading it!
It is so wonderful to have those great memories. I am afraid our children are not having half as good/memorable childhoods...
Tart looks great, everything I love is in it! :)

Medena said...

I = a
:)))

Half Baked said...

Oh my that looks simply divine! Like a bite of spring!

canarygirl said...

Oh, my, Gawd. This tart looks incredible!!! And yes...there really are things that are inextricably linked...especially scents and memories! :)

ejm said...

Lucky you! Picking wild mushrooms!! I'd be nervous - not knowing which ones were safe. Too bad there isn't a similar service here that there is in France - every pharmacist is also a mushroom expert. I gather that one can take mushrooms to the local pharmacist to identify whether they are toxic or not. This would be perfect for people like me.

The tart looks fabulous.

-Elizabeth (aka Nervous Nellie)

Nick said...

Never used morels before, I never knew what to do with them. Funky looking ingredient, I'll have to try them sometime.

I like how unique this dish is, especially the presentation. I'm really surprised those walls are strong enough to support the filling!

- The Peanut Butter Boy

Tartelette said...

Your post reminded me of the times I would go snail hunting with my grandfather after the rain. We can't find them anymore, buildings, traffic, people have changed the face of nature. The tart is gorgeous!

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I have always loved looking at your blog! This mushroom and asparagus tart looks absolutely delightful and the lambs are just plain adorable!

mimi said...

that lamb looks so cute and curious! and beautiful tart, love the idea of using phyllo for the crust.

Bellini Valli said...

This dish sounds amazing Brilynn. Thanks for sharing your childhood memories with us. We never picked morels, but we did find fiddleheads in the woods next to our home:D

Kate / Kajal said...

wow i've never had morels before. the pie looks stunning.

Tarah said...

This looks awesome. My boyfriend would love this!

culinarytravelsofakitchengoddess said...

Wow that looks stunning.

chriesi said...

Looks absolutly delicious!

The Flavor of Vanilla: said...

Oh my, that looks delicious! I wish I could have grown up in a place where we could pick our own vegetables, go morel hunting, but I've never even tried cooking with morels. I think this recipe might inspire me to finally start.

Dana McCauley said...

Looks like we have been having similar inspirations! I posted about morels and added my tart recipe last week. Feel free to drop by.

http://danamccauley.wordpress.com/2008/05/02/dana’s-big-gardening-adventure-week-five/

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Now I got nostalgic after reading your beautiful post. Not because of morels, but because of the little baby lamb picture. I used to have one as a pet growing up! The tart looks so great too!

Elle said...

I loved reading that--it brought back childhood memories for me. And the tart looks fabulous, too!

Katy said...

that lamb is too cute -- and combine it with a baby bottle? i think i would never be able to leave! your dish looks wonderful!