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Welcome to SAVEUR’s weekly column on how to cook local produce according to our test kitchen manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative, unfussy meal ideas plus plenty of cooking advice—like what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate heirloom tomatoes. Each week, Fatima hits the farmers market and chooses a peak-season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the season’s bounty into easy plant-based meals that’ll be on the table in under an hour.

Finding morels at the farmers market is like winning the lottery. One morning you’ll spot them, and the next they’re gone. Some years they don’t make an appearance at all, while others they’re around for weeks. That’s because these fussy, rare mushrooms, which are prized for their smoky earthiness, can’t be cultivated: They’re picked in forests between April and July and sprout only under certain climatic conditions. The good news is, you can substitute any edible mushroom in recipes that call for morels. 

When shopping for wild mushrooms, look for ones that are dry and unbruised. Darker morels have more flavor than lighter ones. Don’t be daunted by the price per pound; mushrooms are mostly air, so a few ounces will go far. To prevent molding, store them in a brown paper bag in the fridge (the crisper drawer with the humidity turned off is best), and plan to eat them within a couple of days, lest they get slimy or shriveled. If the stems are too chewy for your taste (shiitake stems are notoriously tough), freeze them along with any trimmings and add them to your next batch of beef or vegetable stock.

When I’m cooking for my family, I love to keep things simple—I’m  a new mom, after all. These days, that means plenty of crusty bread (grilled on my little superintendent-approved electric grill) topped with cheese and something quick-cooked. A few farmers market morels, placed briefly over the hot grates, make this simple dish into something extra-special. If you don’t have a grill, use the broiler or a grill pan to toast the bread; meanwhile, fry the mushrooms directly in the chive-shallot butter until just tender.

Grilled Morels with Fontina on Toast
Snack or a meal, these crispy toasts are loaded with earthy mushrooms, sharp fontina and tangy vinegar.
Yield: 2 toasts
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • ¼ cups olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 4 tbsp. salted butter, softened, divided
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped (2 tsp.)
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped (3 Tbsp.)
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. whole fresh morels (1½ cups lightly packed)
  • 2 thick country bread slices
  • 2 oz. thinly sliced fontina cheese
  • Flaky sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to medium-high. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sherry vinegar. Set aside.
  2. In a small skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam subsides, add the garlic and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3–4 minutes. Add the chives and cook for another minute. Season with freshly ground black pepper and remove from the heat.
  3. Thread the morels onto skewers. When the grill is preheated, use tongs and a wad of oiled paper towels to grease the grates. Add the morels and grill, turning occasionally, until slightly charred and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, remove the skewers, then coarsely chop the mushrooms. Add them to the butter mixture and toss to coat.
  4. Drizzle the remaining oil over both sides of the bread slices, then grill, turning once, until there are grill marks on both sides, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Top the slices evenly with the fontina, cover, and grill until the cheese is melted, 30–60 seconds more. Transfer the toasts to a serving plate, top with the buttered morels, and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the flaky salt and serve hot.

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