Our farmers market Mushroom Guy had a couple of containers of morels on sale, as they are at the very end of their preciously short season (mid-April to mid-May). So we snagged them. I was looking forward to making a dish I had read about in my new favorite non-fiction book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver. The book documents her and her family’s year-long journey of eating as locally as possible (in their case, living on a farm in southwestern Virginia made some things very easy, and others rather difficult).
The book is peppered with great seasonal recipes, and one of the springtime vegetarian dishes had caught my eye. I made a modified version of the Asparagus and Morel Bread Pudding for my family for Easter (it was a huge hit). However, I didn’t have morels at that time (a mushroom that cannot be cultivated, and which Kingsolver wild harvests in abundance on her rural Virginia property), so had substituted them with cremini mushrooms. So, when Mushroom Guy had the last of the morels, I was eager to give the recipe another try.
Both times, I made some modifications, based on my family’s tastes. Here’s my version of the recipe:
- 1/2 loaf of whole grain bread, stale or toasted
- 1 pound of asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup green onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound of morels or other mushrooms
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups of grated cheese (cheddar or swiss)
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Place the milk and green onions in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep.
Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes, then place the cubes in a 4 quart baking dish.
Steam the asparagus for a few minutes until bright green. Spread over the bread cubes.
Coarsely chop the mushrooms. If you are using morels, soak them in warm salted water for a few minutes.
Mushroom Guy said that it’s important to give them a good, salty soak to remove any “critters” that may have moved into them. I was glad that I followed his advice. The salt water coaxed this little guy out of his hiding place. Good thing since it wouldn’t have been a vegetarian dish otherwise!
Drain the mushrooms and sauté them in the butter until tender. Pour the cooked mushrooms and butter over the asparagus bread mixture.
Beat the eggs until just mixed. Grate the cheese and mix into the eggs. Pour the mixture over the asparagus, bread, morel mixture.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and begins to brown on the edges. Serve hot with a salad. It also makes great leftovers.
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