Wild Spring Morels and Baby Artichokes with Herb Blossoms
These dishes reflect the traditions and resources of the Provence region of France. The pastis, suggested in the recipe, is THE quintessential drink for most family social events in the Provence region. (It's faintly anise flavored.) Luckily, we're able to celebrate these flavors with our families using products from our own region. Look for local morels, northern California artichokes and PCC's fine artisan cheese makers for incredible chevres. (I recommend the Port Madison goat cheeses!)
- 8 to 16 fresh wild morel mushrooms Add to list
- 8 small young artichokes Add to list
- 1 lemon, cut in half Add to list
- 8 very small fresh tomatoes or 16 cherry tomatoes of any color or variety Add to list
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Add to list
- 1 tablespoon butter plus 1 tablespoon cold butter to finish the dish Add to list
- 3 cloves garlic Add to list
- 1/4 cup pastis, or cognac if unavailable Add to list
- 1/2 cup vegetable or mushroom broth Add to list
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil Add to list
- 2 tablespoons assorted herb blooms (garlic, chives, rosemary, thyme, lavender, etc.) Add to list
- Salt and pepper to taste Add to list
With a soft brush, clean the morels of any pine needles or other debris. Cut each in half lengthwise and set aside.
With a sharp paring knife, trim off the outer leaves of the baby artichokes to expose just the compact tender center leaves. Cut off 1/2 inch at the top of the artichoke and trim the stem to 1/2 inch also, peeling away any rough flesh. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and with the tip of the knife, carefully remove the small furry core (or choke) leaving the young leaves attached to the heart and the small length of tender stem. Rub all the exposed surfaces with lemon.
If the tomatoes are larger than bite-sized, cut them in half and set aside. You may peel them instead, if you wish a finer presentation. (See note below.)
In a heavy sauté pan or Dutch oven with a lid, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat and add the artichokes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly tender. Add the morels and the garlic. Stir to heat well. Remove any excess fat from the pan at this time
Pour in the pastis, or cognac, and allow it to simmer for one minute to cook out the alcohol, or carefully flame it, if you desire. Add the vegetable broth, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and allow the mixture to cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the artichokes are fork tender.
Remove the lid and stir in the cold butter to lightly glaze the mixture. Add the tomatoes, basil, herb blossoms and the salt and pepper to taste. Stir just to heat through and serve, garnished with additional blossoms.
To peel tomatoes, drop them into boiling water for 5 to 15 seconds, (the riper they are, the shorter the time), remove them to ice water and allow to sit for a few seconds. Aided by a little paring knife, their skins should come off easily.
Recipe by, PCC Chef