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Ramp and Watercress Salad with Morel Breadsticks

Renowned Traverse City Chef Pete Peterson shares some of his favorite spring recipes with Traverse food and wine editor Tim Tebeau for the May 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the Breadsticks:

  • 1 ounce dried morel mushroom powder (grind dried morels to a powder in small spice grinder)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2–3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

For the Creole Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Creole mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (up to 1/4 cup more, to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

For the Salad:

  • 1 pound wild leeks, with greens, cleaned
  • 4–6 ounces watercress, cleaned and destemmed

Preparation

For the Breadsticks:

Combine the morel mushroom powder in the warm water and let steep for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, the salt, and the dried thyme. Mix in the mushroom water and canola oil. Stir till smooth adding enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes.

Put the dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for about an hour, or until doubled.

Punch the dough down and divide into 4 pieces. One by one, roll out the dough pieces into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. With a chef’s knife cut into strips about 1/4-inch wide. With your fingers, roll each piece of dough into a smooth, pencil-like breadstick. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining strips of dough, and the other three portions. Let rise in a warm place, covered with a towel, for about 20 minutes.

When ready to bake, mist or brush the breadsticks with water and sprinkle with coarse salt to taste. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yields about 30 thin breadsticks.

For the Vinaigrette: 

Combine the vinegar, paprika, mustard, cayenne pepper and salt in a bowl. Whisking constantly, dribble in the oil a few drops at a time until no more oil is absorbed. When the sauce is thick and smooth, taste for seasoning (salt/sugar).

For the Salad:

Small, tender wild leeks that first appear in the spring are best for this dish. Just the well-cleaned bulbs, about 1 1/2-inches long, from the bottom of the plant are used.

Blanch the leek bulbs in salted, light boiling water until they are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Do not overcook, the bulbs should maintain their firmness. Drain, toss in Creole vinaigrette and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, toss the watercress with additional vinaigrette, top with the chilled leek bulbs, and serve with a morel breadstick.