Bounty of Spring Dinner: Morels, Asparagus, Lovage, Sorrel, Ramps
by Ali Seiter
Official Announcement: a veritable cornucopia of spring produce has exploded at the Dane County Farmers Market.
My most recent venture to the farmers market this April revealed a sea of young, green vegetables—tender shoots of scallion-like green garlic; red-bulbed ramps with silky, emerald leaves and a pungent garlic-onion hybrid flavor; chartreuse leaves of sorrel resembling spinach yet sporting a distinct lemony aroma; and long-stemmed lovage, refreshingly comparable to celery in taste and a lime-colored parsley in appearance. Predictably abiding by the old adage of “what grows together, goes together,” each of these short-seasoned gems of spring’s bounty mingle beautifully together in fresh, clean-tasting dishes that positively sing of blissful simplicity. To employ another proverb: “First, do no harm.” I cannot fathom a more appropriate grouping of vegetables to which this quote attributes—by allowing these delicate wisps of rarely experienced flavors to shine of their own accord without complicated cooking methods or overpowering ingredients, one can truly appreciate spring’s unique amalgam of vegetables.
Yet, my most fawned-over celebrity of the spring farmers market lacks a vibrant green hue, instead preferring a mottled gray painted upon its honeycomb-patterned body. Tasting somehow redolent of the forest, the morel mushroom transcends any prior mushrooms experience with its exotic, woodsy flavor and pleasently chewy, spongy texture. Lucky if we can snag a 1/2-pound container of the sparse, fleeting trophies of the foragers during any given spring, my mother and I shell out a pretty penny (this particular 0.6-pound bag cost a sweet $33.00) to revel in the indescribable joy of morels.
In celebration of spring’s unique blend of tastebud-arousing veggies, I offer two recipes utilizing these fast-disappearing ingredients, both of which would make welcome additions to any early-season meal. The first of which, a potato salad, features a mix of freshly dug blue, purple, pink, and yellow fingerling potatoes from Butter Mountain complemented by a host of bright herbs and lemon. The second, a saute of morels and asparagus, employs a classic pairing of spring veggies for a light, simple dish.
Rainbow Potato Salad with Spring Herbs and Lemon Dressing (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)
- 1 1/2 lbs small new potatoes in various colors
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp agave nectar
- 3-4 oz sorrel, cut into chiffonade
- 2/3 cup lovage, leaves only, loosely packed, and minced
- 1/2 cup fresh dill, fronds only, loosely packed, and minced
- 4 ramps, bulbs thinly sliced and leaves cut into chiffonade
- 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- Generous grinding of freshly ground black pepper
Boil a large pot of water. Add the potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes, checking with a knife tip or fork for a tender, creamy texture. Drain. Slice the smaller potatoes in half, the larger ones in quarters.
Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and agave at the bottom of a large serving bowl. Gently stir in the potatoes until evenly coated with the dressing.
Toss the sorrel, lovage, dill, and shallots in with the potatoes and stir until the greens are very slightly wilted. Season with pepper and serve immediately or let cool in the refrigerator.
Recipe submitted to Wellness Weekend.
Morel-Asparagus Saute(Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)
- 1/2 lb fresh morels, cut in half lengthwise
- 3/4 lb asparagus, snapped and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 4-6 stalks of green garlic, thinly sliced (can substitute scallions).
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Place the morels in a large bowl and cover them completely with water. Allow them to soak 30 minutes to an hour to coax any potential buggy critters out of the mushrooms. Drain.
Meanwhile, par-cook the asparagus. If you prefer to steam it, set up a steamer basket and cook for 2 minutes, running the asparagus under cold water immediately after to stop the cooking process. If you prefer to boil it (or if you’re making these two recipes together and would like to reuse the water from boiling the potatoes), bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook for 1 minute, again running the asparagus under cold water immediately after.
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and the green garlic and thyme, and saute for another 6 minutes. Add asparagus and saute until heated through, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley.
Comment Provoking Questions: What are your favorite springtime vegetables? Have you tasted sorrel, lovage, ramps, and/or morels?
Until next time, Ali.