I’ll be honest. I don’t love mushrooms. Who ever decided eating something that falls in the fungus category would be a good idea? Fungus. Ewww. BUT…I love mushrooms that are cleverly disguised. I’m plenty old enough to get past the fact that there’s something large, brown, and slimy in my food, but apparently I’m not mature enough to handle it. The good news is that those techniques that help to trick encourage kids (and husbands!) to eat foods that look or feel strange work on me too…even though I’m the chef! For almost all dishes I prepare with mushrooms, I dice the mushrooms very small…almost minced. If you have a more mature palate, feel free to leave larger pieces!
nutritional profile of mushrooms.
Mushrooms are known to boost the immune system. Exact nutritional profile varies depending on the type of mushroom, but in general they are a good source of potassium, protein, vitamin B complex, copper, phosphorus, and selenium. The nutrition facts displayed here are for about 1/2 cup of raw portobello mushrooms (nutrient info. from the USDA nutrient database).
Mushrooms are rich in glutamic acid, which is basically naturally occurring MSG. This means that the flavor of the foods with which they are cooked is enhanced, making a boring dish somehow amazing. The Japanese word for this phenomenon is “umami” ~ “pleasant savory taste.”
Look for mushrooms that are heavy, dry, and firm. You don’t want anything shriveled, wet, or soft. Mushrooms with tightly closed caps will keep the longest. Mushrooms with open gills are more mature, so don’t plan on storing them for long.
The best way to store mushrooms is in a glass bowl lined with a towel and covered with perforated plastic (I keep the bowl in the cheese drawer to avoid the too low humidity of the shelves and crisper and too high humidity of the vegetable drawer). If not planning to use the mushrooms in a recipe which requires fresh mushrooms within 3-4 days of purchasing, I like to chop them up, freeze them flat, containerize, and keep in the freezer. Not only do they not spoil, they’re ready to use when it’s time to cook!
Mushrooms should be washed prior to using (but not before you’re ready to use them). Do not soak them as they will absorb too much water and become mushy. Just rinse with warm water and use a gentle vegetable brush if necessary. To avoid an overly raw flavor, don’t add raw mushrooms to a dish, even if it is to be cooked. Saute them first to bring out their savory flavor.