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Lemon Ricotta Crostini with Morel Duxelles & Pickled White Asparagus

By Chef Kevin Markey

Spring marks the beginning of morel season here in northern California. Morel mushrooms, which are generally harder to find and more expensive, are now available in abundance and well-priced. I like cooking morels with shallots and white wine, resulting in an explosion of flavor and umami.

Pickling is a great way to preserve leftover vegetables and white asparagus is one of my favorites to pickle! Try this terrific appetizer paired with the Russian River Ranches Chardonnay to get the full experience.

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    Serves 25

    Total Time

    Prep Time

    Difficulty Level Medium

    Ingredients

    1 baguette sourdough bread, 1/8-inch slices

    2 cups ricotta cheese, whole cow's milk

    1/2 cup heavy cream (substitute whole milk or half & half)

    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

    4 lemons, zested

    1 tablespoon black pepper

    15 medium or large mushrooms, cleaned and sliced in half vertically

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    2 shallots, peeled and minced

    1/2 cup white wine

    15 spears pickled white asparagus, halved vertically

    Pickled Asparagus:

    1 bunch white asparagus

    2 cups champagne vinegar (substitute apple cider or white vinegar if necessary)

    2 cups water

    5 black peppercorns

    2 cloves

    1 bay leaf

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Season baguette slices with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet and cook in the oven for 5-7 minutes, just long enough to get crunchy. Remove from oven and set aside for later use.

    2. In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, cream, lemon zest and black pepper and whisk together. Set aside in refrigerator for later use.

    3. In a medium sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and shallots over medium/high. Sweat shallots for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add white wine while the pan is away from the flame and return to the flame gently. Begin to reduce the wine and then add morel mushrooms and gently stir. Morels will be cooked after just 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a cookie sheet. Reserve for later.

    4. The asparagus needs at least a week of pickling before it is ready to eat. If you need a substitute in a pinch, pickled red onions can commonly be found in the condiment aisle at the store. If you’d like to pickle the asparagus yourself, the recipe is below.

    5. Evenly spoon enough ricotta mixture over the top of the crostini. Place one or two halves of the cooked morels over the ricotta. Place one half of a head of pickled asparagus over the top of the morels.

    6. Pickled Asparagus: Combine all ingredients other than asparagus in a soup pot and bring to a boil for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat.

    7. Wash and trim the bottoms of the asparagus to the desired height depending on the size mason jar you have. I recommend using a quart size mason jar for this recipe.

    8. In a large pot, boil water, place the mason jar and lid in the boiling water for at least 30 seconds. Carefully remove the mason jar. Place the asparagus in with the heads facing the lid.

    9. Fill jar with the pickling liquid. Close the lid and tighten. Place the mason jar back in the boiling water for at least 30 seconds. Store upside down in a cool and dark location for up to 6-12 months.

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