As fall moves in, mushrooms find their way into more dishes. Their earthy flavor complements the heartier fare of autumn.
Mushrooms provide a variety of nutrients in a very low-calorie package: just nine calories in one-half cup of raw diced pieces, or 21 calories in one-half cup of mushrooms cooked without added fat. (They shrink down when cooked, so one-half cup cooked contains a lot more mushrooms). They also are a good source of the antioxidant selenium. In recent years, research has looked at the health benefits from the natural substances, called phytochemicals, found in mushrooms. Some of these may stimulate the immune system or block activity that might promote breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
Mushrooms can help make dishes like casseroles, stews and chiles more healthful. Simply cut back on the meat and add mushrooms, which provide a "meaty" texture and rich flavor.
There are now thousands of varieties. Size and shape vary a great deal and color runs the gamut from white to black with just about everything in between. Mushroom caps come smooth or ruffled, with flavors from mild to rich and nutty.
While cultivated mushrooms are available year round in most supermarkets, different seasons bring exotic, wild mushrooms, like cepe, chanterelle, morel, enoki and wood ear. The once-exotic shiitake is now quite common.
Choose mushrooms that are firm and evenly colored, with tightly-closed caps. If all the gills are showing, the mushrooms are past their prime. If a recipe calls for wholemushrooms, pick those that are roughly equal in size so they will cook evenly.
Before using fresh mushrooms, wipe them with a damp paper towel. Don't soak them, because they absorb water and will get mushy.
This mushroom medley is a good way to salute this versatile vegetable during National Mushroom Month.
Mushroom Medley with Spinach
Yield: Makes 8 servings.
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 20 oz. assorted mushrooms (shiitake, button, etc.), stems trimmed, caps sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
- 1/2-1 Tbsp. minced garlic, or to taste
- 1 package (10 oz.) ready-to-use spinach leaves, stems removed
- 6 green onions, cut into thin strips
- 1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat until hot. Add all mushrooms and saute until brown and almost tender, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes.
- Add bell pepper, ginger and garlic and saute 1 minute. Add spinach and green onions and stir until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
1 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat),
6 g. carbohydrate,
3 g. protein,
1 g. dietary fiber,
111 mg. sodium