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Get ready for asparagus season

Pasta with Morel Mushroom and Asparagus. (Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

Once asparagus season hits, I'm digging it and use it as a side dish to many meals. I also use it in many dishes from pastas to quiche. And if I run out of ideas, slicing asparagus raw and adding it to salads is a quick fix and one of my favorite uses. The key with asparagus is not to overcook it. Asparagus should be cooked to crisp-tender stage. It should have a little snap to it when you bite into it. Overcook it and it's a mushy mess. When blanching asparagus, add salt to the water to season it. Adding a spoonful of sugar to the water will help keep its vibrant green color.

Today's recipe is one of my favorites that I make every year. It pairs another spring favorite, earthy morels, with asparagus. If you can't get your hands on fresh morels, you can use dried morels and reconstitute them. Their flavor is hearty, so a little goes a long way.

Pasta with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

1/2 ounce package dried morel mushrooms (about 5-6 mushrooms)

3 ounces (or more as desired) fresh morels

1 pound dry spaghetti

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced

3 medium shallots, peeled, finely chopped

1 pound asparagus, rinsed, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup vegetable stock

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Chopped parsley for garnish

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In a large bowl, place dried morels and 8 cups boiling water, set aside until morels are tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Clean the fresh morels, placing them in another bowl of water and swishing them around to remove any dirt. Remove, pat dry and cut them in half (if some morels are small, leave them whole.)

Using a slotted spoon, remove the reconstituted mushrooms (reserving the liquid) to a cutting board and slice in half lengthwise.

Using a fine mesh strainer, pour the reserved soaking liquid into a large stockpot. Add additional water sufficient to cook pasta, bring to a boil. Season water with kosher salt, add the spaghetti; cook, stirring, until al dente, about 10 minutes or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute; do not let it brown. Add the shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add the reserved morels and fresh morels, plus asparagus and stock, bring to a boil. Cook, covered, until asparagus is tender, about 2 minutes. Uncover, stir in the cream, cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add pasta, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and cheese. Toss until evenly combined. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Adapted from www.savuer.com and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

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