Fabulous Fungi

Mushrooms supply both bountiful nutrition and great taste.

By Lisa James

May 2009


You say you’re a true-blue carnivore? Fine. But there are times when you want to slip something a little different onto the grill, something that provides a rich, meaty flavor—without the meat. And if it was good for you, well so much the better.

Meet the mushroom. Long considered just a sautéed sidekick to burgers and steaks, this Clark Kent of the fungus world is actually a nutritional Superman. Mushrooms are a good low-calorie source of the trace mineral selenium as well as a number of antioxidants. And while several types, especially reishi and shiitake, are being researched for their anti-cancer effects, even the plain old white button mushroom has shown impressive immune-boosting skills.

The button mushroom is the most common type, accounting for 90% of all mushrooms eaten in the US. It has a mild, go-with-anything flavor that makes it the perfect addition to pasta, pizza and salads.

The crimini and portobello are actually two stages of the same mushroom. The young crimini has a deeper flavor than white mushrooms, although not as deep as the fully mature portobello. The portobello’s large size and dense texture makes it the perfect meat substitute, as in the wrap recipe shown here.

The shiitake is another large mushroom. It has a rich, woodsy flavor that only comes out when it is cooked—it’s great stir-fried. The rippling, frond-like maitake, also called “hen of the woods,” features a robust taste that makes it a suitable in both main and side dishes.

When shopping, find mushrooms that are firm and plump with smooth, dry surfaces. Closed gills indicate a more delicate flavor, while exposed gills promise a deeper, richer taste. Refrigerate mushrooms in the original packaging; once opened, transfer unused mushrooms to a paper bag for cold storage. Clean them with a damp paper towel or rinse them quickly in cold water and pat dry.
Whether you are looking for meatless meal or a hearty side dish, take notice of the humble mushroom.

MLT Wrap

4 large portobello mushrooms, sliced (or 8 oz white button mushrooms, quartered)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt-free steak seasoning
salt, to taste
4 wraps
2 tsp fresh minced ginger
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced

1. Brush mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning and salt.

2. If grilling: Preheat grill. Once grill is hot, cook mushroom strips until
deep brown, about 10 minutes. Turn and grill until golden, another 6 to 8 minutes.

3. If sautéing: Heat olive oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high
heat. Add a single layer of mushrooms and cook without stirring for
about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side.
Flip mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes more, until other side is the same color.

4. Meanwhile, warm wraps on the grill in foil or in a dry skillet. Stir ginger
and mayo together and divide among wraps; top with spinach and
tomatoes. When mushrooms are done slice them into thinner strips,
sprinkle with more seasoning, if desired, and place in wraps.

Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 342 calories, 10g protein, 21g fat (3g saturated),
7g fiber, 35g carbohydrate, 736 mg sodium

Source: Mushroom Council (www.mushroomcouncil.org) and Flatout Wraps

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