by Peter Moore
Our friend Max is allergic to wheat. He is gluten-free, but not in the sense of the estimated 30% of Americans who are shunning wheat due to currently trendy pseudo-science; rather, Max is gluten-free in the sense that, if he has anything with wheat, there will be an epi-pen and ER visit involved.
When Max first developed this allergy as an adult there were not the myriad of gluten-free options that exist today and there was a period of him not being able to enjoy many foods he’d liked. So if there is an upside to all this gluten-sensitivity bullshit, it’s that Max can again eat well again.
He recently came up from LA to visit his son, and I wanted to make him a gluten-free Seder. I found gluten-free matzo to grind up for a matzo ball soup (though given that I used some octopus broth I had lying around, it was pretty much not kosher).
Corned beef is reliably gluten-free (especially the lovely hunk I got from Fifth Quarter Charcuterie) and I served it with some braised Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage and baby fennel from Dirty Girl and amazing green garlic from Moon Fox Farm as a main course. With strawberries for dessert it was a different evening. For the appetizer I did morels stuffed with ricotta and preserved lemon with a salad of chicories and radishes that was pleasantly bitter, and that is today’s recipe.
Despite our lack of rain we are having a stellar morel mushroom season this spring. Both the Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market have been having lots of morels including very large ones. The folks at Forage are also having some morel hunting trips coming up in the next few weeks.
- 4 large morel mushrooms
- 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- ½ preserved lemon finely chopped
- ½ cup rice flour
- ½ cup corn starch
- ¾ cup cold tonic water or club soda
- ½ inch of sunflower oil for frying
Clean the morels in a bit of water and trim the bottoms. Let dry on paper towels.
Mix the ricotta with the grated garlic and preserved lemon. Stuff the mushrooms with the ricotta mix. It’s okay to split them to get the stuffing in.
Make the batter by mixing the rice flour and cornstarch together and stirring in the tonic water. Whisk thoroughly so that there are no lumps. You’ll want to do this right before you cook them as the batter does not hold very well.
Heat the oil in a pan big enough to hold the mushrooms with space around them until the oil crisps a small piece of bread immediately.
Working quickly, dip the stuffed morels in the batter and then into the hot oil. I usually cook them on three sides, so when the bottom is brown and crispy (this should only take a couple of minutes) turn them on the side and repeat until all sides are brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve promptly.
To serve I made a quick chopped salad of chopped chicories, watermelon and red radishs, kumquats, peppers, and Mandarin orange sections with a simple dressing of good olive oil, lime juice and salt and plopped the mushroom next to it.
The batter could be made with regular flour instead of the rice flour. Just don’t serve it to someone who is allergic to wheat.
Peter Moore lives, shops, and cooks in Berkeley, California. A co-founder of San Francisco’s Roxie Cinema, he worked in the film world for many years until the lure of food drew him into the world of professional cooking. Shortly thereafter, the lure of day shifts and a medical plan drew him out of restaurants, but his love of cooking remained. He is currently an intern at The Crucible in Oakland and an Operations and Development Associate for the SF Silent Film Festival.