Tag Archives: Cascade Mountains

Wild Morel Mushroom Risotto

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Every spring I look forward to our trips up to the Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon to hunt mushrooms.  Usually during the month of May, for only a few short weeks, you can find wild morel mushrooms.   Morel mushrooms are one of my favorite fungi to prepare and what’s so cool about them is that we can find them close to our home in the mountains that surround the Rogue Valley.

Early one Sunday afternoon, Bruce and I hopped in the truck to visit some friends who live up on the Greensprings about 15 miles east of Ashland.  The Greensprings is right in the heart of morel mushroom country here in Southern Oregon.  That afternoon, Bruce and I were invited to a potluck barbecue with family and friends.  Before the barbecue dinner, the entire group of us planned on hunting for morel mushrooms deep in the forests of Southern Oregon.

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A view on the way up to the summit of the Cascades.  Every time we drive up the mountains, I can’t help but look for the elk herds in the meadows above the road.  Spring and fall seem to be the best time of year to see them.  During the summer months they are found at higher elevations deep in the forests and during the winter, they prefer lower, warmer elevations.  Unfortunately, we did not see any elk today.

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A view below the summit on Highway 66.  We are just a few miles away from the Pacific Crest Trail in the Southern Oregon Cascades and about 5 miles from some of the best mushroom picking spots that I know.

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We finally reached our destination.  These mountain forests contain an abundance of wild mushrooms.  Today we focused only on Morels…  Morel mushrooms are an amazing delicacy that most people see only in fine restaurants or specialty markets.  When picking wild mushrooms, be so very careful to properly identify them before taking them home.  If you are not 100% positively sure of what you are looking at, DON”T PICK IT.  EVER… Some species of mushrooms look so very much alike and are difficult to identify.  I don’t want to frighten you but picking mushrooms is serious business.  It’s potentially dangerous if you pick the wrong one.  You pick the wrong one and you may run the risk of getting terribly sick, or losing your liver or worse, losing your life.

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I found one!  Morels have a distinctive shape and color.  They look like little brown pine cones on the forest floor.  When hunting for morel mushrooms, be mindful of where you walk, you just might step on one!

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A bowl of fresh picked morels…  I just now need to trim up the stems and briefly soak them in salt water to eliminate little bugs or debris.  I will dry or freeze what we will not use within the next few days.

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With some of our fresh picked morels I made a lovely Wild Morel Mushroom Risotto. My Morel Mushroom Risotto is a deliciously creamy blend of arborio rice, morel mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, chicken stock, white wine and fresh shaved Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 to 5 cups chicken stock (hot)
  • 1 cup morel mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 – 3 cups morels (sliced)
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating the olive oil in a thick bottomed pot on medium heat.  Saute the onion in the olive oil until cooked through or transparent.  Add arborio rice and cook for a few minutes.  Add white wine and stir constantly until wine has been absorbed by the rice.  Add 1 cup of the hot chicken stock stirring until the liquid has been absorbed.  Cook for at least 20 minutes adding remaining chicken stock one cup at a time.  Add chopped morel mushrooms after about 15 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.  The goal is for the arborio rice to make a thick and creamy sauce.

In a separate pan, quickly saute the 2 – 3 cups of sliced morel mushrooms in 1 1/2 tsp olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for a few short minutes.  Remove from heat and ladle the sauteed morel mushrooms over the risotto mixture. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout

Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout

There are few dishes that I can think of that tastes better than fresh Oregon caught Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout. Somehow, trout tastes better when you catch it yourself just like I did over the weekend.  Simply delicious!

Early morning in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.  The air was cold, crisp and clean. We were the only people on the lake that day. Do you see the first snow of the season on the mountain?  There was one snow patch on the gravel road on the way up to the lake.  Once we saw the snow, we all knew that it was the last day of trout fishing for the year.  Within weeks or even days, access to this beautiful high mountain lake will be non existent due to snow covered roads.

Once we got out on the lake, the water looked like glass.  It was so cool to see the reflections of the clouds on the surface of the water.

A view of Mount McLoughlin from the north.  Mount McLoughlin is located in Southern Oregon in the Cascade Mountain Range.  It is a volcanic mountain peak nearly 9,500 feet in elevation.  I’ve never been to the top but, from what I have heard from others is that the view on a clear day is spectacular.  If there was anyone on the top of the mountain that day, they would not have been disappointed.

Fishing poles, check.  Fish finder, check.  Down rigger, check.  Beverages, check…  What a perfect day to go fishing!

It was early afternoon and the wind started to pick up.  Between the three of us, we had not caught a thing.  No bites, no bumps, no nothing.  I was starting to get a bit discouraged because I am used to catching fish.  What was so interesting, is that we observed numerous fish on the fish finder but the problem was that we had difficulty getting them to bite.  We trolled flashers, we bait fished, we tossed out a variety of lures, and we worked the surface of the lake.  We hit all depths and we threw everything that we had in our tackle boxes at them.  The fish simply were not interested.  I’m thinking it is because it was very late in the season and the water was really cold.  When the water is cold, the fish tend to slow down, they are not as hungry as they are in the summer months and in the winter, they descend into depths of the lake.  In the summer, different story.  You can catch the fish from the bank and at times have better luck than those who fish from a boat.

Finally… It happened.  It was a late bite.  By late afternoon, I was the first one to land a fish.  Woo-hoo!  By the end of the day the score was:  John – 2, Tessa – 1 and Matt – 0.  I felt bad for Matt, for he had a brand new fishing pole that he got for his birthday the day before.  Today was a perfect example of why fishing is called “fishing” and fishing is not called “catching”.

My catch of the day!  I am so glad that I did not get “skunked” and have to return home empty handed.  I probably would not have heard the end of it…

My Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout is prepared with fresh caught trout, fresh picked herbs from my garden, and is brightly flavored with orange and lemon zest.  It’s easy to make, fresh tasting, quick to prepare, and most of all delicious!  Most importantly, Bruce loved it too!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound trout (cleaned, scaled, head and fins removed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (I used mostly parsley, then, chives and thyme)
  • 1 Tbs each lemon and orange zest
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges
  • fresh chopped herbs for garnish

Prepare trout for grilling.  Wash and pat dry.  Set aside.  Mix together herbs, lemon zest, orange zest and olive oil.  Fill cavity of fish with the herb mixture and on the exterior of the fish.  Add salt and pepper.  Place fish on plastic wrap, tightly cover and refrigerate for an hour.  Remove fish from plastic wrap and place directly on a medium high grill or barbecue.  Cook 6 minutes on each side or until done.  Don’t overcook!  Gently remove from grill, place on serving platter.  Garnish with herbs and serve with lemon wedges.  Serves 2.

Morel Havarti Omelet

Morel Havarti Omelet

One of the things that I love about Oregon is our morel mushrooms.  I never tasted a morel mushroom before until I moved here well over 25 years ago.  Nearly every year I hunt for them on the forest floor of the Cascade Mountains in the spring and early summer.  Some years I am able to find buckets full of mushrooms, sadly, this year, I was so busy with other things, I did not get a chance to go…  From what I heard from people who live in the mountains above the Rogue Valley is that the weather conditions were less than ideal this year and the picking season was terribly short.  So, when I saw these tasty little morels at my favorite food coop, I snagged a brown paper bag full.

Morels are easily identifiable by their shape and their honeycomb texture.  Before going out and picking morels be sure to do your homework and learn how to identify them properly.  There are other mushrooms out in the forest that are similar in shape and size to a morel. Those mushrooms are called false morels and what’s bad about them is that they are not edible and in fact, they may be poisonous.  False morels look similar to a morel so, just be careful…

A half pound of morels.  I always rinse mine before I use them.  The little ridges and pits in the mushrooms can contain dirt and other forest debris.  If you ever get a chance to purchase morels or go hunting for them, by all means, do it.  Morels taste amazing and are super simple to prepare.  You can saute them, fry them, put them in soups, sauces, or use them in ways you would white or crimini mushrooms.  I decided to take some of these mushrooms and put them in an omelet.  I prepared a basic 3 egg omelet and sauteed morels, shallots, thyme, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper in a bit of melted butter.  Filled the omelet with the morel mixture added some Havarti cheese and melted additional Havarti on top.  It was absolutely delightful! Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  •  sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 cup morel mushrooms (cleaned and halved)
  • 1 Tbs shallots (minced)
  • 1/2  tsp fresh thyme (minced)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ounces havarti cheese
  • sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

In a small bowl whisk vigorously together the eggs, water, salt and pepper.  In a nonstick pan on medium high heat add canola oil.  Add the egg mixture covering the entire pan.  Lift parts of the egg mixture with a spatula to allow egg mixture to go under the omelet and cook.  Cook until set.  Meanwhile in another pan, saute the morel mushrooms, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper in butter.  Add mushroom mixture to omelet.  Add 1 ounce Havarti cheese and fold.  Add remaining havarti to the top of the omelet, add a tsp of water, cover and melt.  Remove from pan and slide onto a plate.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme.  Makes 1 omelet.