Morels are the premium items of the mushroom world. Arguably rivaled by the meat-like porcini, morels have a sturdy texture and a deep earthy flavor sauteed in butter. They are a favorite of fungus-fans worldwide, and are particularly prized as a garnish for steak. They're also famous for their hefty price, fetching close to a hundred bucks a pound Stateside, and decidedly not for timid budgets like mine. To be able to eat them, either I have to saunter into the forest after some serious spring rains and scour the ground where they like to hide, or come to Turkey where they are plentiful and somewhat more accommodating at about half the price.
Luckily, my friend Orhan Dumanli, owner of the excellent Kismet Restaurant near Bitez, gives me a few particularly spectacular specimens, four times the size of normal morels. Now aroused for gourmet foods, I spot a lovely packet of pumpkin flowers at the local super-market. Also pricey but affordable at three dollars for twelve of them, I bring them home and get Byron, my foodie buddy, to cook them in a simple but ever so satisfying method.
He heats butter and olive oil in equal measures and softens garlic and hot chilies in it. He adds the flowers and turns them in the hot fat until rosy and wilted. They're delicious, but certainly not enough, we could have eaten ten times as many at a pinch.
To complete my joyful array of springtime pleasures I pick a sprig of mimosa flowers, golden and puffy and now in season. These flowers are most famous back home for their name which has become the drink-of-choice at Sunday brunches of the yuppy set. A "mimosa" is a half and half mixture of orange (in Bitez mandarin) juice with champagne (make that ordinary fizzy wine for people of my financial standing).
Oh, happy drinking. Oh, happy eating.
Photographs by Algis Kemezys © 2012