Spring is Sprung with a Frittata with Wild Leeks, Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus
I'm craving Spring vegetables. On the foodblogs I surf, those in the northern US and southern Ontario are posting pictures of early produce -- asparagus, mushrooms (even some morels), fiddleheads and leeks, including my absolute favourite 'wild leeks' or 'ramps'. Alas, no sign of much springly activity yet here in Ottawa although I'm planning to really check around this weekend.
I'm ready with with a few recipes that I tried last year and plan to do again this year. The first one is for a locally grown (Wild) Leek, (Morel) Mushroom and Asparagus Frittata. There's an option of turning the Frittata into a Quiche by adding a brown rice crust. Closet Cooking did a version with picture (left).
On a 'Ramp-age!'
I'm on the lookout for 'wild leeks' or 'ramps' in the Byward Market. I only found them for the first time at a stall there last year (with an 'ouch' price to boot)!
One food blogger described the taste as 'fried green onions with a dash of funky feet' (hmm... personally, I was impressed with the flavour -- a taste between a little green onion and a mild garlic -- and they add oomph to recipes and stir frys. Both the white and green parts are edible. American Native folklore is that it that they are a spring tonic designed to throw off the ailments of winter! (Bring 'em on).
'The word 'Ramps' is a throw-back to an old English version of the name 'ramson'. It's still possible to find annual 'Ramp fests' in the U.S. in April and early May (e.g,. 'Ramp it Up', 'Stinkfest', 'Ramson Festival' and 'Ramps: the Hillbilly Bouquet of Love', where upwards of 30,000 people have attended, including gospel, country and bluegrass music luminaries such as Tennessee Ernie Ford, Minnie Pearl and Brenda Lee... (way to get Husband to go!). Great food cook-offs and recipe swaps occur at the Festivals (e.g., of a list of recipes).
Now that I've 'ramp-ed' myself up for a mission to find 'em, a word of caution. Ramps are a delicacy in Canada due to over-cultivation. In Quebec, they are a 'threatened species' and listed as a 'special concern' in U.S. States like Maine and Tennessee. So check where you are buying them from -- if you find them!
The Great Morel Mushroom
There's a lot of dedicated 'shroomers (some would say fanatics) who obsess over hunting out the honeycombed topped first 'morels', including those reading The Great Morel website.
I read it as well. The 'morel' of the story (groan) is to leave the foraging of all things wild to the experts. Especially mushrooms. Personally, I am content to buy morels from a certified vendor or find the dried variety.
So, why are morel mushrooms so prized? If website bumpf is to be believed, they are seemingly magical ... heart-healthy because of high levels of vitamin E and potassium, cancer prevention, and ideal for weight management being low in fat and colories yet high in vitamins and nutrients! Phew. Call me convinced! Personally, I cook 'em for the Taste -- rich, earthy, creamy. So will see how I do in tracking them down.
Thin, delicate bundles of spring asparagus -- the essence of spring itself. Its arrival on the table officially heralds the arrival of spring. Food blogs like Food 52 feature it as 'Vegetable of the Week' with tips for cooking it any way that suits you -- raw, shaved, blanched, steamed, broiled, pickled, grilled or sautéed.
My personal favourite is shaved asparagus with fennel and radish, dressed in a lemon vinaigrette.
Final note.... if hunting out spring's bounty is not for you, the Frittata can be made with regular leeks, mushrooms and asparagus. It turns out just fine. But, why not ramp up the taste to the next level as either a Frittata or a Quiche (recipe with brown rice pie crust quiche option below.)
(Wild) Leek, (Morel) Mushrooms and Asparagus Frittata
2 T extra-virgin olive oil (or organic unsalted butter)
1 cup chopped wild leeks (if wild, use both white and green parts; if regular leeks, use white/light green parts only)
1⁄2 bunch (about 6 oz) thin asparagus tips
1 cup fresh morel mushrooms, sliced (if no morels, use a mix of button, cremini, and shiitake)
1 garlic clove, minced
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp ground black pepper
4 large eggs
6 egg whites
1 1⁄2 T chopped fresh mint (or other herbs of choice)
1⁄4 cup (about 3⁄4 oz) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Serving suggestions: fresh mint for garnish and fresh berries
Position oven rack 8 inches from broiler heat source. Preheat broiler. In an oven-safe, 10-inch nonstick skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 4 minutes. Stir in garlic. Add asparagus and mushrooms, sprinkle with 1⁄4 tsp salt, and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, cheese, mint, 1⁄4 tsp salt, and 1⁄2 tsp black pepper.
Arrange asparagus mixture evenly across the bottom of the skillet. Pour egg mixture over the asparagus mixture. Cook until almost set. Broil until puffed and golden, about 3 minutes or so depending on your broiler.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the sides of the skillet to loosen frittata. Invert on a plate and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut into pie-shaped wedges. Garnish with mint. Can serve with fresh berries.
Option for a Quiche with Brown Rice Pie Crust (also gluten free)
2 cups cooked brown rice 1/4 cup shredded cheese of your choice, grated on the large holes of a box grater. 1 large egg white
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 10 inch pie pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Mix together, the rice, cheese and egg white. Press mixture over the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake uncovered, 5 minutes, until edges and bottom just start to turn golden brown.
Cool shell while preparing the frittata/quiche. Pour asparagus mixture in and cook in oven for 35-40 minutes until quiche is set.