Vegan Grandma

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Simple Stir-Fried Mushrooms and Some Interesting Things About Fresh Mushrooms

I had some button mushrooms in the refrigerator that I needed to use today, so I made a simple side dish. I thought it was very good. It’s from World Vegetarian, by Madhur Jaffrey, published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York, page 244. The dish comes from India.

Simple Stir-Fried Mushrooms
makes 3 to 4 servings

1 pound medium white mushrooms

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

12 scallions, white parts only, cut crosswise into very fine slices

1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Clean the mushrooms (Gently wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth or soft brush to remove occasional peat moss particles, or, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels). Slice the mushrooms thinly and evenly.

Put the oil into a large frying pan or wok and set over high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let the seeds sizzle for 10 seconds and then put in the scallions. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and salt. Stir until the mushrooms wilt. Stir in the lemon juice and optional cayenne.

Some Interesting Things About Fresh Mushrooms

White button mushrooms contain a flavor enhancer (umami) that boosts the flavor of any food that are cooked with the mushrooms.

Since mushrooms contain 90 percent water, they absorb flavors from foods that are cooked with them.

Mushrooms contain protein, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and are rich in selenium.

Mushrooms are available year round, but are best November through March.

Look for mushrooms that are firm and slightly moist, with a fresh, smooth appearance, free from major blemishes. The mushrooms should be heavy for their size, and have a woodsy smell.

A closed veil (the gills under the cap) indicates a younger mushroom and a delicate flavor. They will last longer. Open gills indicate an older mushroom. They will have a richer flavor, but will not last as long, and should be used soon after purchase.

"Wild mushrooms" (these are now usually cultivated), such as shiitakes, creminis, or chanterelles have more intense, interesting flavors. These are more expensive, but the more intense flavor means you can use fewer of these mushrooms in a recipe.

Keep mushrooms refrigerated, in an open paper bag. Always remove plastic from packaged mushrooms. Avoid air tight containers which causes moisture condensation and causes the mushrooms to spoil faster. Mushrooms are best when used within several days after purchase. Do not rinse mushrooms until ready to use.

Just before use, gently wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth or soft brush to remove peat moss particles, or rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Fresh mushrooms don't freeze well. But if you do need to freeze them, first saute in oil or in a non-stick skillet without oil; cool slightly, then freeze in an air tight container up to one month.

To be on the safe side, don’t eat the stems of raw mushrooms. The stems contain hydrazine which has been shown to cause malignant tumors in mice who ate large quantities of mushrooms. Cooking neutralizes this chemical.

There is no need to peel mushrooms.

Cook mushrooms in a small amount of oil over low heat until the liquid has been released from the mushrooms, and then cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. The texture should be slightly crisp, not slippery.

To grill white mushroom caps, thread two parallel skewers through the diameter of the caps so they will cook evenly and not fall through the grill rack.

Mushrooms cook well in the microwave. Put eight ounces of cleaned thickly sliced mushrooms in a microwaveable bowl (no oil needed); cover and cook on HIGH (100% power) for two to three minutes stirring once.

To roast, put mushrooms in a shallow baking pan, Toss with a little oil and roast in a 450 F oven, stirring occasionally until brown, about 20 minutes. Use about one tablespoon of oil for each eight ounces of mushrooms.

Grilling or Broiling: (Preferred for larger capped mushrooms like portobellos and Shiitakes) Lightly brush caps and stems with oil to keep them moist, and season with salt and pepper. Grill or broil 4 to 6 inches from heat source for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, brushing again once or twice.

Most seasonings go well with mushrooms. If serving as a side dish, use seasonings compatible with the main dish. When seasoning mushrooms, go lightly with acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice, because these will diminish the flavor of the mushrooms.

To make paper-thin slices, firm mushrooms in the freezer on a baking sheet for 5 minutes, Then slice thinly with a vegetable peeler or a hand held garlic slicer.

Mushrooms can be sliced thick or thin, cut in quarters, coarsely or finely chopped using a sharp knife. For slicing or chopping large quantities, use a food processor with the slicing or wing blade attachment.

If a recipe calls for just caps, twist stems loose or separate them from the caps with the tip of a knife.

To rescue mushrooms that have begun to shrivel, cut off the wrinkled top portion of the cap, then peel around the cap edges to remove the shriveled parts.

Chop leftover mushroom stems then saute them in oil until the liquid evaporates. Freeze to use later on rice, or toss them with fresh herbs and minced garlic to use in stuffing for stuffed vegetables.

Make mushroom paste with leftover cooked mushrooms. Grind them in a blender or food processor or blender, adding enough broth or water to make a paste. Freeze in ice cube trays, then store in zip-lock bags. Add cubes to sauces, soups, gravies, or cooked grains.

If mushrooms have thick stems, cut the stems three-fourths of the way up the stem so that the heat can penetrate through the stems and cook at the same rate as the caps.

Do not cook mushrooms in an aluminum pan, as this will cause the mushrooms to become discolored.

To keep fresh white mushrooms from browning in a salad, wipe them with a paper towel moistened with lemon juice, or spray lightly with lemon water, or lightly coat them with vinaigrette.

To avoid watery stuffed mushrooms, roast the caps for 20 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking. Then stuff and cook further to cook the stuffing.

Add flavor and nutrients to your favorite salad, pizza or soup by tossing in a handful of mushrooms.

Mushroom Equivalents:

1 pound Crimini or White mushrooms= 5 cups sliced (lightly packaged)
1 pound sliced Crimini or White mushrooms= 2 cups sauteed
1 pound Crimini or White mushrooms= approximately 35 medium sized mushrooms
4 ounces Shiitake mushrooms without stems= 1 ½ cups sliced or chopped
6 ounces trimmed Portobello mushrooms= 2 1/4 cups coarsely chopped

There are over 2,500 mushroom varieties grown in the world today. Here are a few of them:

WHITE MUSHROOMS vary in color from creamy white to light brown and vary in size from small (button) to jumbo. They are mild and woodsy, but their flavor intensifies when cooked.
White mushrooms remain fresh 5-7 days. Use raw as an hors d'oeuvre, or garnish in salads and on vegetable trays. Sauté, braise or grill to enhance entrees, soups, sauces and suffings. Marinate or saute and serve as a side dish. Stuff with just about anything for a classic, easy to eat appetizer.

CRIMINI MUSHROOMS are similar in appearance to the Whites. Look for a naturally light tan to rich brown cap and a very firm texture. They have a deeper, denser, earthier flavor than White mushrooms. Criminis should remain fresh for 5-7 days. Substitute for, or use in combination with, any recipe calling for White mushrooms. Their hearty, full-bodied taste makes an excellent addition to vegetable dishes.

PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS are a larger, hardier relative of the White and Crimini and can range up to 6 inches in diameter. Portobellos have a deep, meat-like texture and flavor. Portobellos should keep for 7-10 days. Serve whole or sliced, grilled, baked, or deep fried. They are excellent stuffed as an appetizer, side dish or entree. Add to stir-fries, sautes and sauces. Portobellos are a great substitute for meat in a sandwich or entree. Use them as a meat alternative in a vegan or vegetarian entree.

SHIITAKES range in color from tan to dark brown with broad, umbrella-shaped caps, wide open veils and tan gills. Shiitake caps have a soft, spongy texture. When cooked, Shiitake mushrooms are rich and woodsy with a meaty texture. They keep for up to 14 days. Shiitakes are best if cooked and adapt well to most cooking techniques. They add a meaty flavor and texture to stir-fry's, pastas, soups, entrees and side dishes. Before using shiitakes, tear off and discard tough woody stem. Discarded stems can be used to flavor stocks.

MAITAKE (Hen of the Woods) have a cluster of dark fronds with firm texture at base, becoming slightly brittle and crumbly at the edges. Maitake mushrooms have a distinctive aroma with a rich, woodsy taste. Maitakes usually last 7-10 days. Sauté maitakes lightly in oil. Maitakes add a richer taste to any cooked recipe calling for mushrooms. They go well as main dish ingredient, in side dishes and soups.

OYSTER MUSHROOMS are fluted and graceful. They range in color from soft brown to gray. They are best if cooked. Oyster mushrooms have a delicate, mild flavor and velvety texture. They should remain fresh 5-7 days. Substitute oyster mushrooms for or in combination with cooked white mushrooms. Sautéing with oil and onions brings out full flavor. Add to soups and sauces.

ENOKI MUSHROOMS are fragile and flower-like with long, slender stems and tiny caps. Enoki mushrooms grow in small clusters. They have a mild, light flavor with a slight crunch.
Enoki mushrooms keep for up to 14 days. Use raw in salads and sandwiches. Use as a garnish for soups and salads. Before using, trim roots at cluster base. Separate stems before serving.

MOREL MUSHROOMS have short, thick, hollow stems, topped with sponge-like pointed caps, resembling honeycombs. Morels may be tan, yellow or black in color and produce a rich, nut-like flavor and woodsy fragrance. They keep 10 to 14 days. Morels are typically cooked and adapt well to most types of cooking. Petite sizes are favored for gourmet sauces and soups. Medium and large sizes are the standard for French cuisine.

BEECH MUSHROOMS are petite with either all white or light brown caps. The Beech has a crunchy texture offering a delicately mild flavor that is sweet and deliciously nutty. They keep 7 to 10 days. They go great with vegetables and in stirfries. Add to soups, stews or sauces as a last ingredient to maintain crisp texture.

Grandmother’s Food Secrets, by Dr. Myles H. Bader, published by Mylette Enterprises, LLC, Las Vegas NV 89102
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, Published by new trends Publishing Inc., Washington D.C.20007
Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tips, by David Joachim, published by Rodale


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