Enjoy the Simplicity of Nature’s Spring Beauty and Bounty… celebrate Alfresco Dining with a Morel or two!

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The most simplistic outdoor dining is enhanced by nature’s own tranquility and Spring beauty. The ultimate quest for seeking a slice of bucolic America can be put on the virtual back burner…experience the splendor of Spring with a backyard brunch, a private porch party, or a front yard feast. Make a special meal outdoors for Mother’s Day – with the hope of Blue Skies!!

Set the stage and let your backdrop be nature’s early finest. As the culinary stage manager, it is essential to ferret out the right props then position and block those props to enhance the rest of the production – the menu.

Play off the beginnings of Spring and it’s early greenery for experiences – use single flowered arrangements, purple-flowering chives or newly budding foliage for visual impact.

Flea markets, antique shows (or shops), your grandma’s attic, and garage sales, can provide a myriad of prop options; early enameled cookware, luminous bakelite handled utensils, old quilts, and worn handled baskets all make for unique table settings. Small baskets are ideal for stowing utensils and napkins. Use a medium-sized basket for stem ware and a large apple or buttocks basket lined with a tablecloth, for sandwiches, muffins and fruits.

Transform the idea of serving platters and dishes to a more natural server – utilize a scooped out loaf of bread, hollowed-out vegetables and fruits, or fried potato baskets (the Asian restaurants call them “nests”) for your entrees and side dishes.

Plan your menu according to the time and location of your gathering – consider your food preparation needs; will you need a grill, gas burner or warmer? Make sure your menu will be workable to your location. Organize your prep time and time allotments for having food away from refrigeration, if that is a factor – food spoilage is the easiest way to put a major damper on your event. Mayo-based items need refrigeration!

Some Springtime Food Ideas:
•Stuffed Morel Mushrooms (the filling of your choice, but make sure the mushrooms are not served raw).
•Seasoned Cheeses – roll small logs of Chèvre cheese in an assortment of ground nuts, freshly chopped herbs or spices (coarse cracked black pepper, chopped parsley and chives, paprika, etc.) – one spice or herb per log, to keep the colors vibrant and flavors pure.
•Skewered grilled seasonal vegetables, a protein, or tofu – include some spring mushrooms.
•A Saute of Wild Spring Mushrooms (making sure you are using all edible varieities).
Marinated Fiddle Head Ferns (the young, edible, tightly coiled bright-green fern that
resembles the spiral end of a violin (fiddle) and can be found throughout the eastern half of the United States or available in specialty produce markets from April through July, depending on the region).
•Herbed (fresh new chopped herbs) Potato or Pasta Salad with a grainy mustard sauce.
•Steamed Fresh Asparagus with Ginger Root or Lemon Grass, then sprinkled with
Sesame Seeds
•A Fresh Snipped Chive Tart or Quiche – add some Morels!
•Steamed Artichokes served chilled with a Fruity Citrus Vinaigrette
•Fresh Parsley or Watercress Soup (served hot or chilled) – garnished with a Morel or
two
•Vegetable Pâtes loaded with Fresh Young Scallions or Chives – some Morels would be a great addition!

Morels Stuffed with Crabmeat - also fill a cup with extra filling!

Morels Stuffed with Crabmeat – also fill a cup with extra filling!

Cold Springtime Platter with a variety of Cheese, some homemade dips or flavored cheese, vegetables and smoked salmon

Cold Springtime Platter with a variety of Cheese, some homemade dips or flavored cheese, vegetables and smoked salmon

Skewers of your favorite protein, vegetables and possibly, mushrooms!

Skewers of your favorite protein, vegetables and possibly, mushrooms!

Springtime Morel and Pasta Salad

Springtime Morel and Pasta Salad

Fish stuffed with Morels, sauteed Leeks, and Asparagus

Fish stuffed with Morels, sauteed Leeks, and Asparagus

RMJ’s Crab and Ramp Stuffed Morels©
This delicious recipe is quick and easy, but oh so elegant! If you don’t have enough mushrooms (which can happen!) fill small olive oil sprayed Asian clay teacups with enough crab meat stuffing to appear full (about 1 1/2 tablespoons crab stuffing) or anything else that is ovenproof.
Yield: depends on size of morels

Ingredients:
Olive oil spray
1 1/2 cups lump crabmeat (large chunks of crab)
2 Tablespoons fat free half-and-half (or regular)
1 1/2 Tablespoons light mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons finely processed breadcrumbs (Italian flavored or plan)
2 Tablespoons sautéed chopped ramps (white part) or shallots until
golden brown, and cooled
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Medium-Large fresh morels, cleaned, gently rinsed and stems removed
(if openings are small, cut a little beyond the stem)
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Set oven rack to middle position.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, flake crabmeat slightly. To the crabmeat, add fat free half –and-half, light mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, sautéed ramps or shallots, egg yolk, sea salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir all crabmeat ingredients to mix well (using a fork). Gently fill each morel with an adequate amount of crabmeat stuffing – gently use the tip of a rounded knife for stuffing to make sure stuffing goes to the top of the mushroom.

Coat a sauté pan with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil; heat over medium heat. Place the stuffed morels in the sauté pan; gently and quickly, sauté the stuffed morels, turning on all sides to ensure they are evenly browned (but don’t over cook). Place stuffed morels on an ovenproof dish or small cookie sheet. Bake the stuffed morels for about 10 minutes, or until heated through.

Note: If using the clay teacup idea (or other oven proof small containers) as well – bake the filled teacups bake about 20 minutes in total or until crabmeat stuffing is cooked through and just lightly browned on top.

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