Today I went morel hunting with my friend Ellen and we found these beauties! We also found lots of ramps. I wanted to make a pasta dish with the morels, so I stopped at Zingerman's on the way home to get some cheese and was confronted with a line....
Insider's tip: when there is a line like this, just walk up to the green door and tell them you are there to buy cheese and they will let you right in. Way ahead of all those people.....they will shoot you with hateful stares. You will feel like a celebrity! But the fact is, we locals know that if you are just going to the deli counter, you can walk right in anytime. Don't wait in line for an hour to get a $20 sandwich! Instead, just get cheese and deli meats from the counter and some bread from the bread counter and make the sandwich you want for much less! I was looking for something Parmesan, but not actually Parmesan, for the pasta dish I had in mind. Zingerman's is always staffed with lots of enthusiastic "foodie" types, and I met the eye of the young, clean shaven ginger gent behind the counter that sporting a maize and blue Zingerman's T shirt. From his accent I could tell his was a rich UM student from the east coast, and his name is probably something like "Declan" to reflect his proud, but wealthy, east coast Irish heritage. Like all young bucks that work at Zingerman's, I bet he brags to his friends about his amazing palate. His dudes in the Conservational Ecology program or whatever he's in at Michigan probably call him "Deek" for short. I got more death stares from those waiting to place an order for their $20 sandwich, and I stepped up to the counter to summon some cheese mongering from my new friend Deek. Zingerman's has the best cheese counter in Michigan, no doubt. They have hundreds of cheeses and they will give you samples of anything you want. So I told Deek that I was looking for cheese to put in a pasta dish with the morels I just foraged, and he stared at me blankly. "I am not familiar with that recipe". I wanted to tell him that there was no recipe yet, I was just thinking of something from food I gathered from the forest floor, but I figured it was going to take too long to explain to the lad what a morel was. So I told him this instead: "I want something Parmesan-y that isn't actually Parmesan" and he gave me a knowing look! He suggested this cheese:
I took a sample and it was just what I was looking for...perhaps Deek is new because he accidentally cut me .71 lb instead of the half a pound I requested, but he apologized and have me a sweet discount. I didn't mind, I'll put it to good use. Perhaps I had him all wrong.... maybe his name isn't actually Declan after all. Maybe he's just Dave and he goes to Washtenaw Community College. So much for my stereotyping! I stepped in front of the hundreds of people waiting to pay for their Georgia Reubens or their Pimento Cheese with pretzels (don't wait in line for the pimento cheese, make it yourself with two-year-old raw milk cheddar from Grafton Village you can get from the cheese counter) and paid for my cheese and left. It took all of 5 minutes. Remeber this: only the tourists let Zingerman's make them a sandwich. When you live in Ann Arbor, you make your own sandwich with their stuff!
Deek, or Dave, or whatever his real name is, did me right with the cheese. He might not know what a morel is yet, but this cheese he selected was excellent! If you can't find this special Italian cheese, a Parmesan or an Asiago would work just fine.
Spring Pasta with Peas and Morels
8 oz. fusilli pasta, cooked and drained, reserve 1 c. pasta water from cooking
8 morels, sliced in half vertically
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. dry white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. grated Piave cheese (or Parmesan)
Saute mushrooms in butter and olive oil until lightly browned in a saute pan, about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas and cook until peas are hot and bright green. Add pasta, pasta water, wine to the mushroom mixture and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat. Mix in cheese and stir until melted.
I'm looking forward to making using my ramps and some diced potatoes in a frittata for breakfsat tomorrow, along with the rest of that delicious cheese. Thank you Deek, or whoever you are. You know your cheese, even if you don't know what a morel is!