Pickled Spruce Tips

Delicate Pickled Spruce Tips are a special seasonal treat – put them up when the spruce trees are budding in spring and you’ll have delicious, caper-like pickles to add flavour and interest to cheese platters, sandwiches, or salads. Use them to garnish soups, cocktails, or appetizers or add a zippy mouthful of flavour to any meal.

IMG_2141bt

I’m always a little late to the party. Here in our yard in the country, the spruce trees are just in full glory of budding spruce tips, though when I drive a half hour east into Edmonton, I see that the spruce tree tips are already grown out into feathery fronds. So if you’re in a northern locale or a shaded cooler little microclimate, you may still be able to harvest some of those delectable little spring treats. I find the buds are still tighter on the north sides of my trees. (And if your spruce tip season is done, make sure to bookmark or pin this post so you can get on them first thing next spring – it’s so easy to miss their short time to shine.)

You can pick the new buds off the ends of the branches from any spruce, fir, or pine species – they all have the same resiny flavour base with fresh citrusy overtones, though different species will have slightly different flavour profile. (Avoid yew trees, which are poisonous and don’t grow in our northern climate anyways.) The common spruce trees growing in forests and yards are the ones easiest to find. Just think – you’ve got this delicate specialty right at your fingertips! Spruce tips can be picked when still in tight buds covered in their papery casing or once they’ve opened into lime-green new growth. Older, mature needles can be used in some recipes, though they need to be chopped or steeped, as they are tough.

Spruce tips are super little niblets of health-promoting goodness: they’re high in vitamin C (indigenous peoples knew chewing on them prevented scurvy, plus they soothed sore throats and relieved lung congestion). They are a good source of carotenoids and are exceptionally high in magnesium and potassium. Drinking spruce or fir tip infused water is a natural source of electrolytes (much better than commercial sugary, colour-laden electrolyte drinks). Make the fresh or dried tips into a healing tea to drink after the season for fresh tips is over.

pickled spruce tips - tender tips to harvest

Don’t be worried that picking the spruce tips will harm the tree – you’re actually pruning the tree to produce more tips and be even bushier next year. Just don’t pick all the tips off one area of a tree – spread your picking around the tree, and don’t pick the top tip off a young spruce tree, as that is the growing leader and may make the tree’s future growth misshapen.

Spruce tips are ready for harvesting when the brown papery husks are starting to split and loosen off the new buds at the tips of the branches. But you can also use the more feathery, grown-out tips as long as they’re still soft, to chop up and flavour salads like this bright green salad or this citrusy one, or in any recipes with spruce tips that require cooking like in this post. However for pickling the zippy little delights, you’ll need to have relatively tight buds.

pickled spruce tips - filling the jars

It’s quick and easy to preserve a couple small jars. Then let them age for about a month, and pull them out to add a jolt of flavour to all kinds of meals. Pickled spruce tips are great as a bright and unusual addition to a mixed cheese platter – slice up a selection of different cheeses, add a few handfuls of dried fruits and nuts, and a small dish of the pickled tips. Wow! Their tangy flavour, with hints of piney resin and citrus, are just the foil for rich cheeses.

pickled spruce tips - pouring on the brine

Do you like olives? Pickles? Capers? Then you’ll love pickled spruce tips.

jars of pickled spruce tips ready to process

Use them anywhere you’d use capers: garnish the top of a grilled fish fillet (especially nice on salmon); chop them into a tuna salad, egg salad, or potato salad; pop one onto each deviled egg; chop them into green salads or bean salads; mince them into salad dressings; add a couple to a sandwich; float them on a cream soup as a garnish; use a bit of the pickled spruce tip brine in a Caesar cocktail and garnish the drink with a couple of tips; or make a spruce tip martini . . . as you can see – the possibilities for these zippy little pickled buds is endless.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: You can use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, or even plain white vinegar if that’s all you have.

No need to rinse the spruce tips if you picked them with clean hands and they weren’t near a road. If you think they need it though, give them a rinse and drain them well.

The brine makes enough for one jar, with a little bit left over, depending on how tightly you pack the spruce tips. If making more than one jar, fill each jar with the listed ingredients, and multiply the vinegar solution by the amount of jars you’re using.

In pickling it is best to use filtered water or distilled water as the chlorine or minerals in some city water or well water can cause pickles to discolour. If you don’t have a filtration system or filtration jug (like a Brita jug) you can purchase jugs of distilled water in the grocery store. If you’ve made pickles with your tap water before and it is fine, then you won’t need to get filtered water.

Processing the pickled spruce tips in a boiling water bath ensures they will keep for several years in a cool dark place. If you are only making one jar and plan to use it up within six months, you can just screw the jar shut and keep it refrigerated, without canning it.

Allow the spruce tips to age for at least a month before using them, so the vinegar can fully pickle the buds.

Pickled Spruce Tips - half pints ready to store for the winter and many delicious uses

Pickled Spruce Tips

for each half-pint (250ml) jar:

  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 slice of fresh lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 heaping cup (250ml) of spruce tips

for the brine (enough for 1 jar):

  • ¼ cup (60ml) white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup (60ml) filtered or distilled water

Into each very clean and well-rinsed half-pint (1 cup/250ml) jar, place 6 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 slice of lemon cut in half. and 1 teaspoon salt. Hold the lemon slice and bay leaf against the side of the jar if you’d like them to show on the outside.

Clean the spruce tips of their brown husks (a bit of a sticky job) and pack them into the jars up to ½ inch (1 cm) from the tops of the jars. Pack them in quite firmly. Put the the vinegar and filtered water into a small saucepan and heat just until boiling. Pour the hot brine over the spruce tips and salt until it is also ½ inch (1cm) from the top of the jar. The spruce tips will turn from bright green to olive green as the brine hits them.

Put the new snap lids for the jars into a pot of simmering water for 5 minutes to soften them. Wipe the top rims of the jars with a clean cloth. Seal the jars with the snap lids and metal screw rings until finger tight.

Lay a clean dishcloth in the bottom of a saucepan that is taller than the jars (the dishcloth keeps the jars from bouncing around in the pot once the water is boiling.) Set the jars onto the dishcloth and fill the saucepan with hot tap water up to the bottom of the metal screw rings. Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring the water to a full boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down a bit to keep the water boiling without boiling over. Start timing for 10 minutes.

Process the jars for 10 minutes, then remove them carefully, using a pot holder or jar clamp, to a clean dishtowel laid out on the counter. Leave the jars undisturbed until they are cool. The metal lids should have sealed and suctioned down. If the lids are still bowed slightly upward, then the jars haven’t sealed and should be stored in the fridge and consumed within six months (leave them to age for one month before using). The spruce tips will all have floated to the top of the jars once cool. Give each jar a shake and they will disperse evenly again.

If sealed, the pickled spruce tips will last for several years in a cool, dark place. Leave the jars for a month before using them, so the brine has had time to fully flavour the spruce tips.

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Pickled Spruce Tips are a delicious spring delicacy - taste like capers or olives and add zip to your dishes.

 

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Rhubarb and Spruce Tip Galette – Easier than Pie!

A rustic rhubarb galette showcases spring’s bounty of mouthwatering fresh rhubarb spiked with another special spring offering – spruce tips! This free-form pie is so easy to make, yet looks like a stunning masterpiece (and tastes like one, too.)

fresh rhubarb galette with spruce tips for flavouring

It’s rhubarb season and spruce tip season – so what should we do? Why not put them together? The subtle citrus notes of the tender new buds on your favourite evergreen tree are a lovely complement to the tart notes of rhubarb.

spruce tips ready to pick for the rhubarb galette

I love cooking with spruce tips. The unique and fresh flavour of these little buds enhances so many foods. Just pick them off the tree with a slight twist, remove the papery brown husk, and they’re ready to chop up and add to all sorts of dishes. You can even use them when the tips have opened up and are longer, though still soft – as long as they’re still soft enough to dent them with your fingernail. See this post for pictures of how large they can be.

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Used fresh, like in this green salad or this citrusy one, the flavour of spruce tips is much more ‘piney’ and pronounced, but once cooked, the spruce tip flavour is very delicate and subtle, like in this stuffed pork loin with spruce tips and orange glaze. Spruce tips go particularly well with earthy foods, like sautéed mushrooms or potatoes in a cream sauce or with roasted asparagus. You can make spruce tip vinegar or spruce tip salt with them, but my favourite combination is spruce tips and rhubarb, like in this delectable Swedish Cream with Roasted Rhubarb and Spruce Tips. And since it seems to be pie time in our house lately, here’s a yummy one for you.

I’m not sure where the saying ‘As easy as pie’ came from, because sometimes pie is not so easy to make (but if you have a few bags of my gluten-free pie crust mix in your freezer, half the work is done already).

However, a galette is a different story. It’s definitely as easy as pie – much easier, in fact!

a plump and still-warm rhubarb galette flavoured with spruce tips

This open-faced French pie (or crostata in Italian) requires you only to roll out the pastry, plop on the filling, and fold up the edges. No particular neatness required – in fact, it’s supposed to look a bit messy. That’s part of its rustic charm. The pastry folds can be thick or thin, rumpled or smooth. Sometimes some of the filling leaks out, but that’s okay, too. All good. That crisp crust enclosing a plump, glistening filling – that’s the beauty of a galette.

Let’s get baking. Chop up the rhubarb and spruce tips, stir them up with a bit of sugar and thickener:

filling ingredients for the rhubarb galette

Plop the filling onto the rolled out pastry:

plop the rhubarb filling onto the pastry for the rhubarb galette

Fold up the edges, brush with milk and sugar to make an extra crunchy crust. Dab with butter to keep the top of the filling nice and shiny:

rhubarb galette is ready to pop into the oven

And then . . . ta-da! . . . this is the ruby and gold beauty that comes out of the oven.

who took the first slice of rhubarb galette?

okay, who took the first slice?

Serve this luscious rhubarb galette warm with a scoop of ice cream melting into it or a dollop of whipped cream adorning it, or let it cool and eat it any time. Your taste buds will have a party dancing with the tart, soft little nubs of rhubarb. They melt on your tongue, leaving behind the faint whisper of the spruce woods, the memories of a green forest with dappled sunlight through the mossy evergreens. This rhubarb galette is spring’s gift to you – bounty from the garden and forest.

(And if you haven’t got a forest, maybe your neighbour’s spruce tree will gift you with a few tender morsels 😉 )

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: See the end of the recipe for a couple variations, in case you don’t have a spruce tree in your yard and your neighbour won’t let you filch from his tree (tell him you’re doing him a favour and pruning his tree for him so it’ll be even more bushy next year – truly).

slice of delicious rhubarb galette

Rhubarb and Spruce Tip Galette

  • pastry for a single crust pie (for gluten free pie crust recipe see here)
  • 4 cups (550gms) rhubarb, cut in ½ inch (1cm) pieces
  • 2/3 cup (140gms) + 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) chopped spruce tips (*or see variations below)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2-3 teaspoons almond milk, dairy milk, or water

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Roll out the pastry dough between two sheets of parchment paper, into a 12″ (30cm) circle. (See the bottom of this post for a good tip on how to roll between paper.)

Peel off the top layer of paper and discard it. Transfer the bottom layer of parchment, with the pastry circle still attached, to a baking sheet – a pizza pan works really well for this. Set the pan with the pastry crust into the fridge to chill while you make the filling.

Cut the rhubarb into ½ inch (1cm) slices. Clean the brown papery husk off the spruce tips and chop the spruce tips coarsely. Place the rhubarb and spruce tips into a bowl. Add the salt, cornstarch, and sugar. Toss to combine everything well. Scrape the mixture into a pile on top of the pastry circle in the pan. The sugar and cornstarch will settle between the rhubarb chunks. Level the rhubarb chunks into a neat circle, leaving a 2 inch (5cm) border of pastry uncovered.

Very carefully fold up the pastry border, pulling up on the parchment paper to help lift the pastry. Pleat the pastry and press the folds gently down onto the rhubarb filling as you go around the circle.

Dot the filling with little bits of the butter. Brush the pastry border with the milk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden.

Remove the galette from the oven and leave it to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

Leaking bits of filling are normal with galettes, and add to their rustic charm. If there’s a big puddle of liquid that has leaked out, try to scrape some of it up with a teaspoon and drizzle it back onto the center of the galette.

Gently slide the galette with the paper onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or let cool completely.

If letting the galette cool, remove it from the paper to the cooling rack. To do this, slide a thin metal spatula between the galette and the paper and run it all the way around the galette to make sure it isn’t sticking to the paper anywhere. Then slightly lift one side of the galette with the spatula and pull the parchment paper out from underneath, leaving the galette resting on the cooling rack. Leave it there until it is completely cool. This helps the bottom crust to stay crisp.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, if desired.

Serves 8.

Variations:

*Rhubarb Basil Galette: replace the spruce tips with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil. Another winning combination.

*Plain Rhubarb Galette: replace the spruce tips with 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Simple and delicious.

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Rustic Rhubarb Galette flavored with fresh spruce tips - a stunning spring dessert!

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Big Beautiful Lemon Meringue Pie

A luscious lemon meringue pie is on the top of the favourite-pie-list for many people. Make this beauty from scratch for the lemon lovers in your family. A smooth and silky custard that’s tart and intensely lemony topped with a soft billowy meringue – it’ll satisfy every lemon pie craving.

slice of big beautiful lemon meringue pie

What am I?

I have:

A crispy flaky crust, shattering when the fork hits.

Silky filling, wobbling with sunshine, screaming loud & luscious lemon flavour.

Pillows of fluffy meringue, sugar-kissed, melting on your tongue. 

Okay, in case the picture didn’t give it away – I’m a LEMON MERINGUE PIE!

(And I’m the favourite flavour of a lot of pie-lovers around here.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t grow up eating pie. My German mom was more into making delicious cakes, and strudels, and tortes. I only got ‘into’ pies once I met my husband, whose meals throughout his childhood were defined by the kind of pie they ended with. I had never seen such a glorious selection of pies as those my mother-in-law baked each and every week of her life while her kids were at home. So, naturally, my kids became pie lovers, too. It was in their genetics – and their granny fostered that pie-loving gene by feeding them an astonishing array of pies every time we visited the farm over the years. Pie for dessert. Pie for snacks. Pie for breakfast. And usually a pie to take home with us, too.

Every child had their favourite pie (or two), and I think that changed with the seasons. I mean, there was apple pie, and cherry pie. Saskatoon pie, bumbleberry pie, and peach pie. Plum pie (my favourite), wild blueberry pie, raspberry pie, and strawberry-rhubarb pie. There was raisin pie, mincemeat pie, and pumpkin pie, not to mention, flapper pie, banana cream pie, custard pie, and pecan pie. She also made lemon coconut pie, German chocolate pie, coconut raspberry pie, chocolate cream pie, and even turnip pie. But she always had a lemon meringue pie amongst the mix (my other favourite pie.) It was also the favourite pie of a lot of her huge brood of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

And it was Grandpa’s favourite pie.

Our beloved Grandpa passed away in January of this year. It was a tough time for all of us. He ended a 16-month long battle of complications from a stroke and quietly slipped away, after 96 years of life lived to the fullest. This amazing man was still driving his truck until almost 95 years old, playing cards and telling his dry jokes until his last weeks. He saw a lot of changes in his lifetime. When he was born in 1920 to a homesteading farm family in northern Alberta, life was hard. Travel was by horseback and physical labour was the only way to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Schooltime in the one-room country schoolhouse was a holiday from the work waiting at home. Joining the army as a young man to fight for our freedom in World War II was a call inside him he couldn’t deny. And coming home after the war to provide for his family and raise his children on the farm with his wife Mabel was his greatest pride. They were a great team.

Marvin was a humble man, gentle and kind, but raising his children with a firm hand that didn’t tolerate any straying from his strong core values and principles of honesty and hard work. He was always so grateful for everything he had and would often shake his head in bemusement over how lucky he was to have the life he lived and that his children were all doing well. I think his hard childhood and the experiences he had in the war shaped that gratitude. He loved the land, hunting and fishing, playing ball, and curling. He had a quick and witty sense of humour. Our boys laugh out loud remembering all his crazy old farm sayings (most of them too off-colour to mention here!) And he had this way of lighting up whenever you came to see him, saying ‘Well HELLO there!” with a big smile when you arrived.

After he died, I asked my mother-in-law what Marvin’s favourite pie had been. When she said ‘lemon meringue pie’ I became obsessed with making a lemon meringue pie that would honour him. Mabel had always used a packaged mix that she doctored up with real lemon juice and other ingredients. (That is the only pie she ever used a box to make, and even then she added her own special tricks to it. Fresh lemons were scarce and expensive in country stores years ago.)

squeezing lemons for lemon meringue pie

lemon meringue pie - silky custard pouring the filling into the shell for the lemon meringue pie

So after about eight pies, I finally got the recipe perfected, tweaking it slightly every time (I tried using different flours to thicken it, but no go). I’ve borrowed Mabel’s method of cooking the lemon zest in water and using that to add another layer of flavour depth to the filling. This pie is tangy and bright and big. It’s a slice of lemony sunshine on a plate, and when I eat it I think of my father-in-law.

lemon meringue pie - billows of meringue lemon meringue pie - spreading the meringue Lemon Meringue Pie just out of the oven with a beautiful golden meringue

taking a big bite of lemon meringue pie

Raymond loves lemon pie too – like father like son

Lemon Pie Love.

* * * * *

 

Kitchen Frau Notes: This is a large pie, so if you only have a regular 9-inch pie shell, pour some of the extra filling into a small oven-proof dish and cover it with a bit of the meringue to make a lemon meringue pudding.

Whenever I use the zest of lemons, I try to make sure they are organic, since the peel is where most of the chemical sprays accumulate.

Lemon meringue pie is best when eaten within a day, as sometimes the meringue will ‘weep’ a bit if kept longer – although the extra cornstarch added in the recipe below helps prevent that happening too soon. Make sure to spread the meringue so that it seals to the crust all the way around and can’t pull away from the crust as it cools.

Keep the pie uncovered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to a day, though it usually doesn’t last that long – it’s pretty delicious for breakfast – after all it’s got eggs and fruit in it, right?

lemon meringue pie - one piece with lemon wedge

Big Beautiful Lemon Meringue Pie

  • 1 unbaked 9″ (23cm) deep-dish pie crust or 10″ (25cm) pie crust, gluten free or regular, or a graham wafer crust
  • 2 cups (480ml) water
  • grated zest of 2 organic lemons
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) freshly squeezed, strained, lemon juice (from 4 – 5 large juicy lemons)
  • 1 cup (210gms) sugar
  • ½ cup (65gms) cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) water
  • pinch of turmeric (less than ⅛ teaspoon)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

for the meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85gms) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Roll out the pie crust to fit the pie pan. (If using the gluten-free crust, roll it between two sheets of parchment paper – see photos for an easy way to do this at the bottom of this post.) Trim and crimp the edges. Prick all over with a fork. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Bake the chilled pie crust for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are golden. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Prepare the filling: Combine the 2 cups of water with the lemon zest in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat a bit and cook at a low boil for 3 minutes. Strain through a fine meshed strainer into a 2-cup measuring cup. Press down on the lemon zest solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Top up the lemon liquid with water to make 2 cups (480ml).

Rinse out the saucepan to remove any bits of lemon peel adhering to the sides, and return the lemon water to it. Add the fresh lemon juice.

In a small bowl stir together the sugar and cornstarch to evenly combine them. Add the salt, egg yolks, 1/3 cup water, and pinch of turmeric. Whisk until smooth.

Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the lemon water in the saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full rolling boil, then cook for 15 seconds more.

Remove the filling from the heat and stir in the butter. Cool 5 minutes, stirring twice.

* * *

While the filling is cooling, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and make the meringue.

Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Mix the cornstarch with the sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle it over the egg whites, then continue beating until glossy. Don’t over-beat or the meringue will be hard to spread. Add the vanilla and beat for a few seconds to incorporate.

Pour the slightly cooled filling into the baked pie shell. Dollop tablespoons of the meringue evenly on top of the filling. Using a butter knife or small offset spatula, gently spread the meringue to fill the spaces between dollops, and spread it to the edges of the crust, making sure it is sealed to the crust all the way around the edge of the pie (to prevent shrinkage). Use the knife or spatula to makes swirls over the top of the meringue.

Bake in the pie in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until the swirls are golden brown.

Allow to cool completely – at least 4 hours – before slicing. Store the lemon meringue pie at room temperature, uncovered, for up to 24 hours.

Makes 8 slices of pie.

 

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Luscious Lemon Pie - tart and lemony and made from scratch (easy) | Kitchen Frau

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Posted in Pies & Tarts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mushroom Hunting: Pasta with Morel Mushrooms in a Delicate Cream Sauce

Pasta with Morel Mushrooms – If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some wild morel mushrooms you’ll wow your guests with this delicate, creamy pasta dish. It’s a rare spring treat.

penne pasta with morel mushrooms in cream sauce, vertical

I’ve become a mushroom-picking maniac, thanks to my mushroom-mentor friend, Alex. This post tells about what a scaredy-cat I used to be about foraging for mushrooms in the wild. But then along came Alex, and now my fungi-foraging world has ‘mushroomed’! There was last fall’s huge puffball extravaganza, and then the wild mushroom risotto made with honey mushrooms from our hunt. You can see that with her expert guidance I’ve now become quite comfortable picking those delectable little morsels from the forest floor.

pasta with morel mushrooms, Alex hunting morels

Alex knows just where to find those mystical morels

When she called me up last week and said, The morels are ready, well I had rubber boots on and pail in hand before you could say ‘mushroom-mooching mama’.

We spent several hours tromping through the forest, often scrambling on hands and knees under bushes and low-hanging branches to spot these elusive spring mushrooms. Morels love moist, shady hollows, and are crafty little devils, camouflaging themselves amongst the carpet of brown leaves covering the spring forest.

pasta with morel mushrooms; a morel hiding in the leaves

those cheeky little morels sure can hide in the leaves

These mushrooms are so funny-looking, with their wrinkly little caps on tall creamy-coloured stems. They make me smile. I have a hunch that when we lumbering humans aren’t around, those little morels get up to all kinds of shenanigans together with the wood fairies. They’re probably partying up a storm in the dappled shade of the forest, dancing and giggling, and laughing at us big people.

pasta with morel mushrooms; two morels in leaves

I caught the guy on the right bowing his head, probably asking a cute little fairy for a dance

It was such a joy tromping through the trees on a spring evening. The forest was calm and smelled of wet leaves and new growth.

mossy tree and morel mushrooms

After several hours, a few twigs in our hair, and a rip in my pants, Alex and I had a modest harvest in our pails.

pasta with morel mushrooms, a few pails of morels

I brought the mushrooms home and picked them over (for critters that hitched a ride).

pasta with morel mushrooms spilling from pail

Trimmed off the longer stems, then a quick rinse in a colander under running water. I laid them out to dry a bit on a clean tea towel.

pasta with morel mushrooms, drying the mushrooms

These early morels are very moist and juicy – quite different from the regular morels we had at the lake a few years ago. I sautéed a couple chopped shallots and a clove of garlic in butter, then added the mushrooms. When I cooked them up they released a LOT of water, but that’s okay – the liquid made a wonderful sauce. A few sprigs of thyme and a splash of marsala wine, and there it is – a taste of a spring forest in your pan.

pasta with morel mushrooms, cooking the mushroomsJust cook up a pot of pasta so it’s nice and chewy – al dente. Top with a few spoonfuls of these creamy morels and you can close your eyes and hear the rustling of the leaves as you you amble down the forest path.

Pasta with morel mushrooms in a cream sauce

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: I used gluten-free corn penne for the dish because the shape of the pasta echoed the shape of the morel mushroom stems, but you can use any other shape of pasta you wish. Spaghetti would be nice, too.

If you’re not lucky enough to find a cache of morel mushrooms, substitute any other wild mushroom, or even use button mushrooms – just tear them into irregular sized chunks with your fingers. If using other mushrooms, they may not give off as much liquid as these morels do, then add chicken or vegetable broth to make the sauce thin enough to generously coat the pasta.

The morel sauce can also be cooked ahead without the cream and cheese and refrigerated – just reheat gently and add the cream, cornstarch, and Parmesan just before serving.

And if you have it – a little drizzle of truffle oil over the top of the dish intensifies the delicate mushroom flavour.

pasta with morel mushrooms - dig right in

 

Pasta with Morel Mushrooms in Cream Sauce

  • 350 gms/12 oz penne pasta, gluten-free or regular
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped (or 1 cup onion)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 cups (500gms) fresh morel mushrooms (or substitute other mushrooms of your choice), rinsed and dried on a towel, long stems cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons dry marsala wine or sherry
  • several sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free if necessary)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup (60ml) heavy cream/whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • a drizzle of truffle oil – optional

Set a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. When boiling, add the pasta and cook for the time recommended on the package for al dente pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the shallots and garlic in the butter until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the whole morels and stems, marsala, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook for 5 minutes, occasionally giving the mushrooms a gentle stir. (At this point, if using regular mushrooms, you may need to add up to a cup of broth – enough to almost cover the mushrooms while they are cooking.)

In a small bowl or cup, stir together the whipping cream, cornstarch, and Parmesan cheese. Stir into the bubbling mushrooms and cook for one more minute.

Divide the pasta between plates and top each serving with a few spoonfuls of the morels in cream sauce. Drizzle each plateful with a bit of truffle oil, if desired.

Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as an appetizer course.

Guten Appetit!

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Pasta with Morel Mushrooms | Kitchen Frau

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pasta with morel mushrooms in cream sauce with shallots and thyme

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Cooking with Kids: Giant Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

A wedge of slightly warm chocolate chip skillet cookie is soft and gooey, just the thing to dip into a cold glass of milk or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (And no fussing with batches of cookie sheets or scooping sticky cookie dough.)

chocolate chip skillet cookie with ice cream and chocolate shavings

Cooking with Meredith

Are you in the mood for a buttery chocolate chip cookie, one that’s soft and chewy with little pockets of oozing melted chocolate?

Ooooh, baby, yes I am.

Meredith and I were both craving cookies today, but were feeling too lazy to make up a batch of regular cookies. We didn’t want all that scooping of dough and fiddling with batches of pans waiting to go into the oven. My go-to is these gluten-free chocolate chip cookies – they’ve got banana in them to add a subtle and rich flavour (can’t even tell it’s banana), and we almost made those, but we decided to make an easy peasy giant skillet cookie instead. This one turns out well with gluten-free flour (just let it cool completely before slicing). All you have to do is stir up the dough, grease a skillet, and plop the dough into it. Slide it into the oven and bake.

mixing the skillet cookie dough

in goes the sugar

batter for skillet cookie

cream it up with the butter

greasing the pan for the skillet cookie

of course, greasing the skillet involves butter fingerpainting

patting the skillet cookie dough into the pan

pat, pat, pat

Wait 20 minutes and out comes one big beautiful cookie, dimpled with little divots of molten chocolate amongst the golden caramelly dough.

skillet cookie in pan

Let it cool a bit, and slice it into wedges. Dip the delicious cookie slab into a glass of cold milk for a simple bit of cookie heaven.

slab of skillet cookie and milk

Or top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate shavings or a fudgy sauce for a seriously decadent dessert. (Try it with Mississippi Mud Sauce!)

Giant Skillet Cookie with ice cream and chocolate shavings

A skillet cookie’s a great idea to feed a crew the next time you have a dinner party, barbecue, or get-together. Simple and timeless. Everyone loves a good chocolate chip cookie – a classic that will never go out of style. But you can always have some fun with the size and shape of it. Set the skillet cookie on the table, add a knife, and let people carve out their own wedges. Meredith ate 3 pieces (a quarter of the skillet!) – and that was after a full dinner.

I think we can proclaim it a hit.

Meredith Eating Skillet Cookie dipping the skillet cookie wedge in milk

* * * * *

 

Kitchen Frau Notes: Measure your skillet, if it is only 10 inches (25cm)  in diameter, instead of 12 inches, your cookie will be thicker and take about 5 minutes longer to bake.

This giant cookie tastes best the same day it is baked. If there’s any left over the next day, reheat the cookie wedges for a few seconds in the microwave to get that soft melty chocolate experience again.

chocolate chip skillet cookie, wedge

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

  • ½ cup (115gms) salted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (150gms) lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt  (½ teaspoon if using unsalted butter)
  • 1½ cups (210gms) this gluten free flour mix (or use regular flour for non-gluten-free)
  • 1 cup (160gms) chocolate chips (or Smarties)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously butter a 12-inch (30cm) cast iron skillet.

In an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add the cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and flour and beat until well incorporated.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scrape the dough into the greased skillet, and press down with your fingers or a spatula, so the cookie is a smooth even layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the giant skillet cookie are golden and the center is just set.

Let cool slightly. Best served the day it is baked.

*If using gluten free flour, it is important to let the skillet cookie cool to lukewarm – if it’s still too warm it will crumble when sliced, but firms up nicely when it’s slightly cool.

Slice into 12 wedges. Eat as is, or serve with ice cream and chocolate sauce or sprinkles.

Guten Appetit!

 

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Giant Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie | Kitchen Frau

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we made another skillet cookie with mini Smarties instead of chocolate chips

Posted in Cookies & Candy, Cooking with Kids | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments