I had to slice a lot of mushrooms at work today, Portobello, Oyster, and My favorite, Shiitake.Shiitake mushrooms with their rich, smoky flavor are used in many recipes and different cuisine, they are relatively new to our western taste buds (Americans been eating them since 1972) but have become very popular over the years.
I was first introduce to Shiitake about 11 years ago, when my step grandfather was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and decided to fight it with a meticulous diet that involved a lot of Shiitake (along with many other things).
Why Shiitake? There are a few answers to this question, I'll try to keep it short:
Early investigators were skeptical of mushrooms because they appeared to have properties similar to those of cancer - parasitical, fungus-like, and fast growing. It now seems that these qualities might be an indications that mushroom are useful for treating cancer. Shiitake mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, they are said to be a natural source of interferon, a protein which appears to induce an immune response against cancer and viral diseases. They are also thought to tonify immunity and appears to have strong effect against tumors and cancers. Mushrooms are also a good source of germanium, an element that improves cellular oxygenation and enhance immunity. * (based mostly on information from the book "Healing with whole foods" Paul Pitchford and from various online sources).
Oh wow, it sounds like we all should be eating more Shiitake...
Living in a city filled with pollution and being exposed to all these cancerous threats is pretty harsh on our bodies, and if adding Shiitake to my diet can boost up my odds, even just a bit, I'm in!
You can buy them fresh, dried or even powdered, you can soak them in hot water and drink as a tea or fill your on capsules and take as a supplement, personally I like to eat them, raw, or cooked.
Convinced yet? Let's get down to business:
First make sure that when selecting fresh mushrooms they are firm and clean, if they look soft, sticky or have dark spots, you should not eat them. Fresh ones are best stored loosely in a paper bag inside your fridge and the dried ones in an air tight container in your pantry.
As for cooking them, you can be creative and add them into soups, sautéed veggies, rice dishes, pastas, sushi, salads and so on ( please share any recipes and/or ideas)
I really like adding them to my porcini and shallots when making a risotto (see recipe below) but if you feel like cooking something that simply screams "healthy" here is a recipe for Barley with vegetables:
- 1 cup barley, soaked
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1/2 cup carrot, diced
- 2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (soaked for 15 minutes if dried)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 cups water (can be substituted with stock for extra flavor)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- saute vegetables in sesame oil
- dry roast barley lightly
- place barley and vegetable in a pot with water and salt
- cover and bring to a boil
- reduce heat to low, simmer for 40 minutes
- 6 cups chicken broth, divided
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pound Porcini, Shiitake and baby Portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
- Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, just about 22 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bon Appetite !