An Ode to the Marvelous Mushroom
Until I was 16, I was convinced that I was horrendously allergic to mushrooms. I ate a big bowl of them once, on a hot summer day. They were colorful, marble sized button mushrooms. It could have just been my hypochondria or possibly dehydration brought on by the hot Texas sun, but within the hour my hands started to tingle. My avoidance of these little morsels was overridden in my AP biology class. We watched a full length film on the Fungus kingdom, which fascinated me to the point of obsession. I think this overload of knowledge on the Fungus kingdom would have caused an aversive reaction in most people, but for some reason mushrooms seemed so much more appealing after learning all about how they feed on nature’s decay.
Mushrooms have a bland flavor on their own, but they have an absorptive, meaty texture, so they hold on to flavors well and make a good option for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Since they don’t have an obtrusive flavor or texture, mushrooms are easy to throw into a variety of dishes and appetizers.
When shopping for mushrooms, be sure to check that they aren’t smelly, slimy, spotty or wrinkly. They should be smooth and clean across the top of the cap. A little dirt is fine, as you can wash it off, but any mushrooms with bumps or bruises should be avoided. Be sure to cook the mushrooms shortly after buying them, as they can go bad quickly. If possible, store your mushrooms in a brown paper bag, as they will last longer that way. Here I’ve listed some of my favorites:
- Button Mushrooms: Button mushrooms account for most of the mushrooms consumed. They are medium sized, white and round. They are best eaten stuffed or in omelettes, stir-fries, and also pair well with meat dishes.
- Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitakes are thin mushrooms with brown caps and a strong, smoky flavor. They can be purchased fresh or dried. They have tough stems, so it is important to remove them before cooking. Shiitakes are great for soups and stir fries.
- Crimini Mushrooms: Criminis have brown caps and are slightly flatter than button mushrooms. They are often labeled as baby bellas.They can be cooked in the same ways as button or portobello mushrooms
- Oyster Mushrooms Oyster mushrooms are white with a distinct shape. They are great in Asian soups, or sauteed with garlic.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of edible mushrooms out there, so if you’re interested in learning more, you may find this site informative.
Of all the languages I’ve studied, I think that French makes mushrooms sound the most appealing. There’s something so elegant about the word champignons. The French not only make mushrooms sound delicious, but they make them taste incredible as well. Often times, the simplest recipes can be some of the best, and this recipe for Mushrooms (Champignons) Provençal is no exception:
- 1 cup White mushrooms
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 2 cloves Garlic
- Small handful of parsley or Herbs De Provence
- Heat up a pan with the olive oil.
- Sauté your mushrooms in olive oil and melted butter. This is best done with a thinner variety of mushroom like shiitake, rather than portobellos or the standard white button mushroom. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste.
- Throw in some chopped parsley, or herbs de provence, garlic and lemon juice, and let them cook a bit longer.
- If you’re looking for something to pair these with, throw them on a bed of leafy greens or cold French green lentils.
One of my favorite ways to eat mushrooms is in fajitas. My favorite vegetarian restaurant back home serves Southwestern portobello zucchini fajitas, with sauteed onions and chipotle pepper sauce. I’ve always felt turned off by the idea of vegetarian fajitas, but this recipe has caused me to rethink the idea.
- 1 Small white onion
- 2 Green zucchini
- 1 Portobello mushroom
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Spicy cheddar jack cheese
For Chipotle Sauce
- 3-5 chipotle peppers (you can find them canned in the import aisles)
- 3-5 sundried tomatoes, soaked in water beforehand
- ⅓ cup Cooking oil
- ½ cup Grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup Pecans
- First, slice a white onion into long strips and sauté them in oil until crisp. Set aside.
- Cut the zucchini into strips and slice the portobellos longways, then sauté them with olive oil and garlic.
- Once the mushrooms start to become tender, add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve them on flour or corn tortillas.
- If you want to add a southwestern touch, add some spicy cheddar jack cheese or make a pesto sauce using pecans, chipotle peppers, garlic and sundried tomatoes in a food processor.
Another classic way to cook mushrooms is with spinach. When cooking this dish, it is important to cook the mushrooms fully before adding the spinach, as spinach takes much less time to cook. Personally, I like to make this Spinach and mushrooms recipe with lots of garlic and lemon juice.
- ½ cup Mushrooms
- 2 cups Fresh spinach
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 2 Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- Start by sautéing the mushrooms with olive oil.
- When the mushrooms begin to get tender, add lemon juice or vinegar. When the mushrooms are thoroughly cooked, add the spinach, and more lemon juice or vinegar if needed.
- When the spinach is a bright green color, remove from the heat and sprinkle with the freshly chopped garlic.
Cover photo source.