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Hunting Morels

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I grew up in the Midwest, which for me meant that in the spring and early summer it was mushroom hunting time. My junior high science teacher would take each of his classes out into the grounds of the neighboring Catholic church to hunt for mushrooms.

Usually we never found anything, but it was always a great hour spent outside “hunting” through nature – and the graveyard. He always managed to have had the forethought to bring in mushrooms he had found out in the woods near his house, so even if our classroom expedition proved a bust, there was always a final reward of batter-fried mushrooms when we got back into his classroom.

I am in Minnesota working for the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN, and wild morel mushroom season has just come to a close. I shot the video of my most recent expedition into the woods on the bluffs of the Mississippi and it includes a mushroom recipe –

Mushroom Bruschetta

(Bruschette con Funghi Misti)

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, reserving the soaking liquid

8 ounces fresh baby portabello mushrooms, sliced

3½ ounces fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (*)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon Kosher or sea salt

½ tablespoon feshly ground black pepper

1 baguette loaf, sliced on the bias into ½-inch thick slices

(*) You may substitute your favorite mushroom. If I had found enough morels, I would have used them here.

Place the dried porcinis into a bowl, cover with 2 cups very hot water and let reconstitute for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the oil. Stir in the garlic and quickly cook for 15 to 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add in the sliced portabello and shitake mushrooms, sautéing for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their natural water content and the water is almost evaporated.

Remove the porcinis, straining and reserving the soaking liquid. Dice the porcinis and add to the sauté pan. Stir to combine. Add in the reserved liquid and continue to cook the mushrooms until the added liquid is almost evaporated.

Meanwhile, grill or toast the bread until it is nicely browned and crunchy.

Remove the mushrooms from the heat and top each bread slice with the mushroom mixture. Drizzle with some additional extra virgin olive oil.

Buon Appetito~


**Listen to my recent WPR “Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders” interview with Jean Feraca: LISTEN NOW