Tag Archives: mushrooms

Thai Cuisine

Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonized by Europeans. Thus, its cuisine is authentic and has only been slightly influenced by bordering countries or traders.

Thai cuisine is very spicy and focuses on dishes which are well balanced in four areas – sweet (usually palm sugar or coconut milk), salty (fish sauce and salt), sour (lime in several forms and tamarind) and spicy (chilies). Meals served in restaurants are accompanied by a quartet of sauces brought to the table – fish sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, dried chili flakes, and palm sugar. Rice is served at most meals, (usually jasmine rice, but also sticky or glutinous rice) and sometimes noodles. Cucumbers are often served to cool the palate. I was told recently that additional ways to counter the spiciness is to add more rice, add sugar, or drink more beer!

Thai food was traditionally eaten by the right hand while seated on cushions on the floor, but today most Thais eat with a fork and large spoon. The fork is held in the left hand and is used to scoop or push into the spoon which is held in the right hand. Chopsticks are reserved only for noodle dishes.

The Thai pantry can be stocked from items available in the international aisle at a grocery store or a local Asian market. Lo’s Seafood in Portsmouth, NH carries Thai canned goods (coconut milk, fish sauce, tamarind paste), kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, fresh chilies (bird’s eye chilies or very tiny chilies are hotter than larger chilies), Thai basil and cilantro. Green, yellow and red curry pastes (hottest to mildest, respectively) can be made from scratch or purchased already prepared.

The following recipe for Chicken Coconut Milk Soup is one which we prepared at the Thai Farm Cooking School while I was in Thailand recently.

Tom Kaa Gai (Chicken Coconut Milk Soup)

Ingredients:

½ c. water

¼ cup of peeled, thinly sliced galangal or ginger

1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced into one-inch pieces

½ cup halved grape tomatoes

½ cup sliced mushrooms

1-5 bird eye’s chili peppers

1 chicken breast, sliced thinly and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 can coconut milk

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1 stem of cilantro, finely diced

3 sliced scallions

1 T. fish sauce or soy sauce

½ teaspoon light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons of lime juice

Directions:

Combine water, galangal, lemongrass, tomatoes and mushrooms in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to boil. Remove stems from chili peppers and crush open by banging down with your palm on the flat side of a heavy knife. Add chili peppers, coconut milk and chicken pieces to broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until chicken is milky white all the way through. Fold kaffir lime leaves in half along spine and remove spine of each leaf to release flavor. Add to soup with cilantro, scallions, fish sauce, sugar and salt to taste. Continue to cook over medium heat for 5 more minutes to intensify flavor. Finally add lime juice (soup will be too bitter if lime juice is added too early.) Lemongrass pieces, kaffir lime leaves, chilies and  galangal or ginger root should be removed prior to serving as they are all too tough to chew. Serves 2.

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Spinach-and-Mushroom-Lasagna-040

This Spinach and Mushroom lasagna is a great vegetarian alternative to the classic meat lasagna.

Ingredients

12 lasagna noodles

2 T. butter

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

4 lbs. mushrooms, washed and sliced

2 lbs. spinach

2 T. butter

¼ c. flour

2 c. half and half

¼ t. nutmeg

1-16 oz. carton ricotta cheese

1 egg

½ c. grated parmesan cheese

¼ c. fresh basil, sliced thinly

8 c. grated mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350o F. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain. In a large skillet, melt butter and olive oil and sauté garlic, mushrooms and spinach until mushrooms are tender and spinach is wilted. In a sauce pan over medium heat, make the white sauce. Melt butter and stir in flour and nutmeg. Whisk in half and half until smooth, well-blended and cook over low heat until slightly thickened. In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese, the egg, grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil and stir until well-blended. To assemble: Line a baking dish with one layer of lasagna noodles, slightly overlapping them. Spread one half of the spinach mixture over the noodles. Pour 1 c. of the white sauce over the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with half the grated mozzarella cheese. Dot with spoonsful of the ricotta cheese mixture. Place a second layer of overlapping lasagna noodles on top of the ricotta. Spread the second half of the ricotta over the noodles. Put the remaining spinach mixture over the ricotta and pour the rest of the white sauce on the spinach mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Serves 8.

Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

2 c. Arborio rice
4-6 c. vegetable stock
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

4 T. butter

1 ½  pounds mushrooms (Use any combination of mushroom varieties you like –  porcini, crimini, shitake, oyster & button -but if you use dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrate in hot water & use the mushroom water in addition to the vegetable stock for cooking the risotto)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup onion, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1 ½ c. parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Directions:

In a large skillet, sauté mushrooms in 2 T. olive oil until tender.  Set aside. In a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, pour remaining olive oil and 1 1/2 T of butter. Once the butter begins to melt, sauté the onions and garlic until tender and translucent.  Add the rice to this mixture and sauté until the rice becomes opaque and white.  At this point you can add about a cup of vegetable stock and stir until completely absorbed, repeat this process adding about a cup of stock at a time until the rice becomes creamy and starchy. Once the rice has reached desired consistency add the sautéed mushrooms, the remaining butter, and the parmesan cheese. Stir butter and cheese are completely melted.  Serves 6-8.

Week 20: Mushrooms

“Edible” mushrooms are the fungi with no poisonous nor adverse affects when consumed by humans. They grow both above and below ground and may be wild harvested or cultivated.

Edible mushroom species have been found in association with 13,000 year old ruins in Chile, but the first reliable evidence of mushroom consumption dates to several hundred years BC in China. The Chinese value mushrooms for medicinal properties as well as for food. Ancient Romans and Greeks used mushrooms for culinary purposes.

No one has yet developed a simple test to tell if a mushroom is edible or not. Roman Emperors used “food tasters” to make sure that mushrooms were safe to eat.The old myths of cooking with a silver coin or spoon, and the Laotian belief that harmful mushrooms make rice turn red have not been substantiated.

Over 20 species of mushrooms are commercially cultivated.  The most common are:

 

enoki  mushrooms

Enoki  (enokitaki or golden needle mushrooms) –  long, thin mushrooms grown in clusters on the stumps of the Chinese Hackberry tree and also on mulberry and persimmon trees. They exist in the wild and are also cultivated in a carbon dioxide-rich environment which ensures longer stems and a white color, as opposed to those found in the wild which are usually a darker brown. They are used in Asian cuisine, particularly in soups.

oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms – scalloped-shaped mushrooms that grow like “shelves” on the bark of dead hardwood trees.  They have an anise-like aroma and can be gray, blue, pink, yellow or white. Occasionally tan caps can be found that grow up to 18 inches in diameter.  Generally, oyster mushrooms can be harvested two or three times from the same bark during the growing season. Oyster mushrooms are used in stir-fry recipes since they have a thin cap which cooks quickly.

button mushroom

White mushrooms (“button”) – most commercially available mushroom.  Freshest specimens have closed caps. Considered a universal mushroom, it has a mild, fresh flavor and may be cooked or eaten raw.

Portobello mushrooms

Portobellos (also baby bellas) – A cousin of the white mushroom, portobellos resemble an umbrella with thick, meaty flesh. The larger portobellos are often substituted for meat in sandwiches and vegetarian recipes.

Shitake mushrooms

Shitake – the second most widely cultivated mushroom in the world. The shiitake has a medium-sized, umbrella-shaped, tan to brown cap. The edges of the cap roll inwards. The underside and stem are white.

The Chinese were the first to cultivate this mildly fragrant mushroom more than six hundred years ago. Yield and quality varied from year to year until scientific techniques were developed. Japanese scientists developed a method of inserting pencil-shaped plugs of mycelial spawn grown from specially selected varieties into holes bored in oak logs. Today shitake mushrooms are grown in the United States as well as in Asian countries on a variety of materials containing cellulose, such as sawdust enriched with rice bran.

The following species are commonly harvested from the wild:

Porcini mushroom

Porcini (Pig mushroom) – sold fresh in Europe but is only available dried in the U.S. Known in Germany as “stone mushrooms”, in Russia as “white mushrooms”, in Albanian as “wolf mushrooms”, and in France as the “cèpe”.

changerelle mushrooms

Chanterelle – The yellow chanterelle is one of the best and most easily recognizable mushrooms, and can be found in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. The cap is fleshy, with wavy, rounded cap margins tapering downward to meet the stem. The gills are not the usual thin straight panels hanging from the lower surface of the cap, as we see in the common store mushroom. Instead, the ridges are rounded, blunt, shallow, and widely spaced. At the edge of the cap they are forked and interconnected. The chanterelle’s aroma is variously described as apricot- or peachlike. The European and Asian varieties are about the size of a thumb, while North American varieties can weigh up to two pounds.

Morel mushroom

Morels – usually found in open scrub, woodland or open ground in early spring as the snow melts. They resemble tall pointed hats pitted with hollow spaces. Because of it’s appearance, it is sometimes referred to as the “sponge mushroom.”  Avoid morels whose caps are soft or mushy, or become granular when rubbed, as they old and wormy.

Maitake mushroom

Maitake (also “hen of the woods” or “sheep’s head”) – a large, hearty mushroom commonly found on or near stumps and bases of oak trees.

Matsutake mushroom

Matsutake (“pine mushroom”) – highly prized in Japanese cuisine, this mushroom grows most abundantly along the coast of the state of Washington. The cap is dark brown, scaled, and bell-shaped, and perches atop a massive round stem that looks like the cut section of a ripe sugar-cane stalk.With age, the cap and stem develop rusty stains where bruised. It is distinguished by a clean, spicy odor.

Buying and cleaning mushrooms

When buying mushrooms, look for firm caps and wholesome odors. If the mushrooms are beginning to decay, brown, slimy, smelly soft spots will appear on their surface. Avoid fragmenting gills or pore surfaces, and worm holes.

Do not clean mushrooms until you are ready to use them as they will deteriorate rapidly when wet. Cut off the lower portion of the stems, and brush gently with a nylon mushroom brush or wipe off with a damp cloth to remove any soil or growing medium. Rinse the gills, if exposed, as they can harbor insects. Dried mushrooms will keep in the refrigerator or freezer for several months and can be rehydrated in hot water when you are ready to prepare them.

Drying mushrooms

After cleaning the mushrooms, using as little water as possible, cut into slices about 3/8 inch thick. The slices should be of uniform width so that they will dry at the same speed. Plan to work on your mushrooms as soon as you bring them home. Do not leave them lying around to deteriorate. Avoid overlapping the slices on trays so that they will dry evenly.

If you do not have a commercial food dehydrator, you can dry your mushrooms in flats of wire screen doors, or plastic mesh above ovens, fireplaces, or heating units. One mushroom enthusiast used an abandoned refrigerator with a fan and a 75-watt light bulb.

When slices are completely dry, place them in metal cans or glass jars. If you are uncertain about their state of dryness, transfer them into paper bags, and hang in a dry, warm place over an oven or fireplace for a few days. Then put them into containers, adding a few dried bay leaves or a handful of whole black peppers to discourage insect pests. Be sure to label containers with the date and the species identification.

Health Benefits

Mushrooms, when exposed to UV light, convert ergosterol, a chemical found in large concentrations in many mushrooms, to Vitamin D2.

In Japan and China the chemicals found in shiitakes have been analyzed for medicinal properties, although some of their medicinal claims have not been proven. Extracts have been used in treating cancer, and claims have been made that they reduce cholesterol, enhance sexual power, prolong life, kill viruses, and improve circulation.

 Resources

http://www.mssf.org

Wikipedia

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Truffle Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

8 oz. fresh wild mushroom agnolotti

1/2 c. heavy cream

2 T. white truffle oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/4 c. shredded Pecorino Romano cheese

 

Directions:

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, heat butter in a large skillet. Stir in heavy cream and truffle oil. Bring sauce to a low simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste; add additional heavy cream or truffle oil, if desired. Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Garnish with shredded cheese.

Shrimp and Artichoke Hearts

shrimp-artichoke-hearts1

Ingredients:

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

½ t. cayenne

1 pint half & half

3 T. catsup

2 T. Worcestershire

5 T. lemon juice

5 T. sherry

3 jars marinated artichoke hearts, well drained

½ lb. Fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 ½ lbs. Jumbo shrimp, cooked, peeled & deveined

2 c. grated cheddar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400o. Melt butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Add flour & cayenne pepper.  Mix well.  Whisk in half & half and cook over low heat until thick and well blended.  Add catsup, Worchester, lemon juice & sherry.  Blend well.  In baking dish, combine artichoke hearts, shrimp & mushrooms.  Pour sauce over and top with cheese.  Bake about 30 minutes in 400o oven.  This is best served with a crisp green salad, rice and a crunchy loaf of bread. Serves 6-8.

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients:

12 lasagna noodles

2 T. butter

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

4 lbs. mushrooms, washed and sliced

2 lbs. spinach

2 T. butter

¼ c. flour

2 c. half and half

¼ t. nutmeg

1-16 oz. carton ricotta cheese

1 egg

½ c. grated parmesan cheese

¼ c. fresh basil, sliced thinly

8 c. grated mozzarella cheese

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350o F. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling, salted water until al dente.  Drain.  In a large skillet, melt butter and olive oil and sauté garlic, mushrooms and spinach until mushrooms are tender and spinach is wilted. In a sauce pan over medium heat, make the white sauce. Melt butter and stir in flour and nutmeg.  Whisk in half and half until smooth, well-blended and cook over low heat until slightly thickened. In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese, the egg, grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil and stir until well-blended.  To assemble:  Line a baking dish with one layer of lasagna noodles, slightly overlapping them.  Spread one half of the spinach mixture over the noodles.  Pour 1 c. of the white sauce over the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with half the grated mozzarella cheese. Dot with spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese mixture. Place a second layer of overlapping lasagna noodles on top of the ricotta.  Spread the second half of the ricotta over the noodles.  Put the remaining spinach mixture over the ricotta and pour the rest of the white sauce on the spinach mixture.  Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Serves 8.