Every time my family ordered pizza when I was a kid, my dad would find some way to sneak mushrooms onto a corner of that pizza, possibly tucked under a layer of cheese per special instruction to the pizza parlor. He loved them but I was stubbornly convinced that a single mushroom would ruin the entire pizza. Now that I'm older and have developed a more refined palate (ok fine, I still love Cinnamon Toast Crunch), I've come to understand how just special mushrooms are in the world of cuisine. They provide an extraordinary variety of texture and flavors which seem to adapt to any kind of dish. And, as a bit of icing on the cake, I've learned how mushrooms are truly wonderful for your health. Consider this my ode to the mushroom.
When it comes to health, edible mushrooms are a right up there with other super-foods green tea and broccoli. After all, the first antibiotics were extracted from fungi. Being 80-90% water, mushrooms are low in calories, while still being high in fiber. They are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low in sodium (especially good for those on a hypertensive diet). Here are some other reasons to sneak more mushrooms into your cooking:
- Mushrooms are considered probiotic, meaning that they help the body to strengthen itself and ward off illness. Part of mushrooms' probiotic ability comes from their high percentage of the nutrient riboflavin.
- Mushrooms are a great source of potassium, a mineral which helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. A medium portabella mushroom has more potassium than a glass of orange juice or a banana.
- Phytonutrients found in mushrooms have been at the center of anti-cancer research for decades. In many countries, medicinal mushrooms are used as an adjunct to other cancer treatments.
White mushrooms actually range in color from white to light brown, and come in many different sizes. The smaller varieties of white mushrooms are called button mushrooms and are easily the most popular mushroom in cooking, found in most grocery stores. Freshly picked white mushrooms have a mild or delicate flavor. As the caps darken, they develop a richer taste.
- Recent studies have shown that white mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast and prostrate cancer.
Grilled Lemon Shrimp with Mushrooms
This healthy meal is perfectly seasoned with light lemon juice and garlic, grilled to perfection and then stuffed into a pita. Carb-friendly and delicious!
8 oz. fresh white mushrooms
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 medium-sized zucchini, sliced 1 inch thick (about 2 1/2 C.)
1 medium-sized red onion cut in 8 wedges
1/4 C. olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 pitas, warmed
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:
1 C. plain low-fat yogurt
1 C. peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint or parsley
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat outdoor grill or broiler until hot. Leave small mushrooms whole; halve larger ones. In a large bowl, place mushrooms, shrimp, zucchini and red onion. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and black pepper, and pour over vegetables; toss until well-coated. Place vegetables and shrimp on a vegetable grilling rack or a rack in a broiler pan. Grill or broil no more than 6 inches from heat until vegetables and shrimp are just cooked, about 8 minutes, stirring often and brushing occasionally with remaining marinade. Serve on pitas with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce.
To make sauce, in a small bowl, combine all ingredients and blend well. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Yield: 4 servings
From: St. Pete Times
Nutrition information per serving: 308 calories, 25gm protein, 16gm fat
Crimini mushrooms are similar in appearance to white mushrooms, but are a darker color, ranging from light tan to dark brown. They have a firmer texture and a stronger, earthier flavor than white mushrooms. These make a great substitute for white mushrooms in any recipe and work especially well with beef.
- Crimini mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, which is needed for the proper function of the antioxidant system in the body. Selenium works to prevent colon cancer, arthritis, and even asthma. Crimini mushrooms are also exceptionally good as a source of zinc, a critical mineral for the immune system.
Vegetarian Hobo Dinner
Cooked over hot coals, this meal is made with Boca "meat", mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes.
2 carrots, sliced
6-8 new potatoes, quartered
1/2 onion, lg. chunks
2 shallots, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, lg. chunks
8-10 cremini mushrooms whole or halved
2-4 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, optional
1 pkg. frozen Boca ground "meat"
salt & pepper, to taste
season salt, dash
Mix all sliced vegetables in a bowl. Make 2 pockets with heavy duty aluminum foil, doubled. Place a layer of vegetables on bottom. Layer Boca ground "meat" next. Add a final layer of veggies. Pour 1-2 Tbs. of olive oil on each dinner, dot with butter, if using. Season with salt, pepper, and season salt. Fold foil to make an airtight seal. Cook on hot coals for fifteen minutes, flipping half-way through. Serve with ketchup, enjoy!
Portabellas are a larger relative to white mushrooms, reaching a diameter of up to 6 inches. Portabellas take longer to spoil than white or crimini mushrooms. Because of their longer growing cycle, they have a denser, meatier texture and flavor, making them delicious on sandwiches.
This delicious, crust-less pizza with cheese, tomatoes, and mushrooms is part of a low-carb diet.
1 to 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled, minced
6 oz. portabella mushroom caps (about 4), cleaned, stems removed
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 oz. shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese 10 fresh basil leaves
2 fresh tomatoes, sliced, roasted, grilled or broiled Oregano leaves, optional
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the oil and garlic. Rub the mushroom caps on all sides with the oil mixture. Place the caps, top side down, in a circle on an oiled baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the cheese, basil and tomato slices alternately in a circle on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with oregano, if you like. Bake until the cheese melts, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.
Shitake (Oak/Chinese/Black Forest)
Shitake mushroom caps have a rich, woodsy flavor and soft, spongy texture. They range in color from tan to dark brown with broad, umbrella-shaped caps. Shitake mushrooms can last up to 14 days and the discarded stems can be used to flavor soup stocks.
- Used for centuries in East Asia to fight colds and flues, shitake mushrooms have been shown to help stimulate the immune system, fight infection, and ward off tumors. Shitake also treats nutritional deficiencies and liver ailments.
4 C. water
1-2 C. chopped organic vegetables (see note)
1 1/2 Tbs. of dark organic barley
Miso Firm tofu, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
3-inch piece dried wakame seaweed (found in most health food stores)
2 shitake mushrooms, organic, dried (Can pre-soak per package instructions.)
Boil the water in a small pot. Add chopped vegetables and mushrooms to boiling water. Lower heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 8-15 minutes depending on the vegetables used). After vegetables have simmered for about 5 minutes, place a 1/4 C. hot vegetable broth from the pot in a separate bowl. Add miso to bowl and mix until miso becomes a wet paste. Add tofu to bowl of miso mixture and set bowl aside until vegetables are tender. Tear seaweed into small pieces and add to the pot.
When vegetables are tender, add the miso mixture from the bowl to the pot. Let stand for 3 - 4 minutes. Don't heat miso on high heat, as it will kill the living microorganisms that aid in digestion and healing. Remember making this healing soup is intuitive. You can try more or less miso and different vegetable combinations. Honor your body's wisdom as you experiment with this miso soup recipe. Enjoy this healing soup.
Many varieties of chanterelles are delicious in cooking, one of the most identifiable being the yellow chanterelle (pictured). Chanterelles have a delicate flavor and a finer texture, making them perfect for egg dishes and as a topping on pizza. The bioluminescent Jack-O-Lantern chanterelle is extremely poisonous to humans but not fatal.
Snow Peas and Wild Mushrooms with Ginger
Excellent side dish, especially if you can find a variety of wild mushrooms.
1/2 tsp. canola or sesame oil
3 C. mushrooms, mixed (shiitake, chanterelles, oyster, etc.), sliced
2 Tbs. ginger root, peeled and sliced into 1/2" match sticks
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. cardamom, ground
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. soy sauce, low-sodium
3 C. snow peas, fresh or frozen
15 oz. canned baby corn
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add oil. Sauté mushrooms, ginger root, ginger powder, and cardamom for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve cornstarch in vinegar and soy sauce. Add cornstarch mixture, snow peas and baby corn to sauté. Heat 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve. Don't over-cook the vegetables.
Often considered one of the finest mushrooms for cooking, porcini mushrooms are thick, meaty, and versatile. Italian cooks often season the mushroom with a woodsy variety of thyme called nipetella. Because of the heartiness of the mushroom, porcini do very well when dried (pictured).
Noodles with Wild Mushrooms
This is a great dish for summertime when you can get a variety of wild mushrooms at your local farmer's market.
1 lb. of noodles (fresh or frozen)
12 oz. mushrooms (Portobello, shiitake or porcini), diced
8 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. chicken broth
2 Tbs. beef broth
2 Tbs. parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and sauté until just soft. Add the broths and parsley. Cook the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and toss with the mushroom sauce. Reheat if necessary. Check the seasonings. Serve warm.
Yield: 4 servings
Oyster mushrooms have broad, fluted caps, and are described as graceful by many. Often growing on the sides of trees, these mushrooms are most commonly white but can also feature more interesting colors in the wild like pink or yellow. They have a mild flavor and the most velvety texture of any mushroom.
- Oyster mushrooms have a protein quality almost equal to animal-derived protein, without the fat. These mushrooms have also been show to work against cholesterol.
Mushroom and Chestnut Soup with Roasted Fennel
This elaborate soup uses three different kinds of mushrooms and the fennel gives it some unique flavoring as well. A very sophisticated soup.
3 fennel bulbs, stalks cut off, in half
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbs. butter
1 diced white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. chopped thyme
1 7 oz. jar whole peeled chestnuts
2 10 oz. pkg. white button mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. oyster mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 qt. chicken broth
1/3 C. heavy cream
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut fennel bulbs, stalks cut off, in half, place cut side up on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. sea salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Roast until tender, 30 minutes. In 8 quart pot, melt butter, add onion, and garlic, cook 5 minutes. Add thyme, chestnuts, white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, chanterelle mushrooms, sea salt and black pepper. Cook until mushrooms are wilted, 15 minutes.
Remove 1 C. chestnuts and mushrooms, coarsely chop and reserve for garnish. Pour 2 quarts chicken broth into pot, bring to boiling. Reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Using blender, puree soup until smooth. Stir in 1/3 C. heavy cream, keep warm.
To serve: Remove and discard tough core from fennel halves, chop fennel. Spoon soup into bowls. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and garnish with chopped fennel and mushroom mixture.
Yield: 12 servings
Morel mushrooms have spongy caps resembling honeycombs and short, thick stems. Morals have a rich, nutty taste and a strong, woodsy fragrance. One variety of morel, called the False Morel (pictured), is deadly poisonous when eaten raw but considered a delicacy in some parts of the world after cooking.
Red Wine-Braised Rabbit with Wild Mushrooms
2 fresh rabbits, cut into serving pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 C. red wine, such as Syrah or Cotes-du-Rhone
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 juniper berries, toasted and coarsely ground
2 rosemary sprigs, coarsely chopped
2 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil, or as needed
1 heaping C. diced carrots
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 or 4 slices dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes in 1/2 C. hot chicken broth or water
2 C. red wine, such as Syrah or Cotes-du-Rhone
1/2 C. port
2 C. chicken broth or canned low-sodium broth
4 thyme sprigs
6 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 leek top
2 bay leaves
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 lb. fresh porcini, morel, chanterelle, or cremini mushrooms, trimmed
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, basil, or thyme for garnish
Place the rabbit in a shallow ceramic or other non-reactive dish. In a small bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients. Pour the marinade over the rabbit, turning to coat, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours. Remove the rabbit from the marinade and set aside. Strain the marinade into a bowl, reserving the vegetables; set the liquid and vegetables aside.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Pat the rabbit pieces dry and season them with salt and pepper. In a deep heavy ovenproof skillet or a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the rabbit pieces, in batches, being careful not to crowd the skillet, and sear, turning once until they are golden brown, 10-12 minutes; carefully monitor the heat so that the oil does not burn, adding more oil between batches if necessary. Transfer the rabbit to a rack set over a baking sheet.
Tie together thyme, parsley, look top and bay leaves to make a bouquet garni and set aside. Add the carrots, garlic, and reserved vegetables from the marinade to the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the dried mushrooms and their liquid, the wine and port, and the reserved liquid from the marinade. Bring to a simmer and skim off any foam. Add the broth, bouquet garni, and the rabbit and bring back to a simmer. Cover tightly with the lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the loin pieces and set aside. Continue to braise the remaining rabbit for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Transfer the rabbit pieces to a rack set over a platter.
Place the skillet half on and half off a burner (this will make skimming off the fat easier) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil to reduce by half, skimming frequently. Then strain the liquid into a saucepan, reserving the vegetables. Discard the bouquet garni and puree the vegetables through a food mill. Add the pureed vegetables to the skillet, bring to a simmer, and reduce until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Adjust the seasoning.
Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the fresh mushrooms and sauté until some of their juices are released but they are still firm, 3-4 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Just before serving, re-warm the rabbit in the sauce.
Place a helping of spoonbread in the center of each plate and surround with the rabbit and mushrooms. Spoon the sauce over the rabbit and garnish with the chopped herbs.