Thursday, April 26, 2012

Strawberry and Labneh-Stuffed Morels

Sometimes you just luck out. Although we had high hopes for finding morels this warm, rainy spring, life conspired to keep us from having much time to go foraging. We made one brave effort just as the spring ephemerals were popping up but despite our dedication that day (including crossing our still chilly creek and discovering the hard way that it is deceptively deep in places, then fighting through multiflora rose on steep slopes), none were to be found. I blame the deer.

Then on Easter when we were walking up to do some work in the orchard, when we weren't even looking, there they were. A patch of morels where we had never before seen any. I walked right past, but fortunately, Jim spotted one and said "hey, isn't that a morel?"  He didn't have to ask twice. Boy, did he score big points that day. I didn't bother to get the camera, I just scooped up all that I could find. Just enough for one meal but more than I'd ever found before.

I have been saving up tons of morel recipes for that day all shroomers dream of: hitting the motherlode and finding hundreds of morels. Not that I'm greedy; it's just that all the recipes seem to call for more morels than I can find. Something about the happy hormones that were triggered by our find that day must have also tripped the creativity switch in my brain. Inspiration struck for the perfect appetizer: labneh-stuffed morels. I know a lot of folks stuff them with cream cheese, but I'm on a labneh kick. It serves the same function texturally but doesn't feel so excessively rich. I still feel like I'm eating something comforting but reasonably healthy. The slight tang makes it seem like a grown-up version of cream cheese. And being yogurt-based, it doesn't trigger those lactose problems that come with middle age. The only drawback: it can be hard to find in a small town (Ashevillains: find it at The Fresh Market).

I sliced the morels in half, then sauteed them briefly in butter (always cook your mushrooms). I then piped the labneh into each half (by the way, if your morel is not hollow inside, it's not a morel). Thanks to the lovely old farmer from South Carolina who sells his fruit directly to diners at local restaurants (talk about farm-to-table), we had a gallon of gorgeous, tasty strawberries left from our Friday night pizza run. On to the labneh they went.

Yum! Decadent and healthy at the same time. Sometimes life is so freaking good!

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