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VOL. 36 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 28, 2012

Crimini! Too many mushroom varieties

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Parties! Parties! Parties! Once we get close to the end of November, it seems like the parties, dinners, and get-togethers are non-stop. When you add on birthdays, showers and weddings, most every weekend and evening is taken until after the celebration of the New Year.

We managed to have a quiet night at home one night last week, so I prepared the dish below. My family loved it. It was a super hit, not only because it was so yummy but also because it was easy and quick.

For me, it turned out to be a “comfort” meal. I added some buttered, mixed vegetables and a loaf of hot sourdough bread. It was so tasty and soothing, a recipe everyone wants me to keep on hand.

This recipe has mushrooms, and one of the weddings and one of the socials we attended this month both served stuffed mushrooms. One had cornbread-stuffed mushrooms, and the other had spinach-and feta-stuffed mushrooms.

There are so many varieties of mushrooms in stores nowadays, how do you know which ones to use for which dish? Maybe this will help.

Mushrooms are fungi and feed by absorbing nutrients from the organic material on which they live.

They are a good source of B vitamins, especially niacin and riboflavin, and the highest-ranking among vegetables for protein content.

Dried mushrooms have almost as much protein as veal. Shiitake mushrooms are among the most delicious and nutritious.

White button: These mild-tasting mushrooms are among the most popular as they blend with most anything. They can be sautéed or eaten raw; however, cooking intensifies their flavor. Four to five mushrooms contains about 18 calories, no fat, three grams of carbohydrates, 300 milligrams of potassium and important antioxidants.

Crimini mushrooms, also known as baby bellas or browns, are similar to whites in shape but are light tan to saddle-brown in color, have a deep, earthy full-bodied flavor and a firmer texture.

They can be cooked almost any way and their hearty flavor makes them a wonderful addition to vegetables, wild game and beef. Four to five criminis contain 23 calories, no fat, antioxidants, and B vitamins.

Portabellas are a larger crimini mushroom. They are similar in color but can measure up six to eight inches in diameter. Their flavor is deep and meaty. Portabellas can be grilled, broiled or roasted, and served as appetizers, entrees or side dishes. One medium Portabella provides 22 calories, no fat and four grams of carbohydrates.

Maitake mushrooms (aka “hen of the woods”) are rippling and fan-shaped with no caps. They have a distinctive aroma and a rich, woodsy taste. Maitakes are best sautéed in butter and can be used in any recipe calling for mushrooms. A serving of four to five provides 31 calories, no fat, and six grams of carbs. They, too, are a good source of antioxidants.

Shiitake mushrooms are also brown in color, and have broad umbrella-shaped caps. They are meaty and woodsy when cooked. The stem should be removed before using. They add a hearty flavor to stir-fry, pastas, soups, entrees and sides. A serving of four to five provides 41 calories, no fat and 10 grams of carbs.

Enoki mushrooms have tiny button-shaped caps on long, slender stems. They are mild-tasting and crunchy. They are great eaten raw in salads and on sandwiches, or used cooked in soups. A serving of four to five provides 37 calories, no fat and six grams of carbs. A serving also contains more than 300 milligrams of potassium.

Oyster mushrooms can be gray to pale yellow, and sometimes blue in color. They have a velvety texture and a very delicate flavor. Oysters are best sautéed with butter and onions. (Try them with a pasta dish, sprinkled with parmesan cheese). A serving of four to five provides 36 calories, no fat and five grams of carbs. They also have nearly three grams of protein – six percent of the daily value.

Beech mushrooms are petite and can have all white or light brown caps. They are crunchy with a sweet mild, nutty flavor. Cook in any dish requiring mushrooms. A serving of three-and-a-half ounces of beech mushrooms provides 30 calories, 16 percent fat, 42 percent protein, and three grams of carbs. They contain no cholesterol, no sodium, and are extremely high in niacin, potassium, and selenium.

Sweet Italian Chicken with Sausage

1 pound of sweet Italian sausage

1/2 cup of Greek vinaigrette dressing, divided

1 1/2 to 2 pounds of chicken tenders, or chicken breasts,

cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 pound of crimini or brown mushrooms, sliced

1 can (14.5 oz.) of low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

1/4 cup of cold water

6 cups of hot, cooked white rice

Grated parmesan cheese

Fresh ground black pepper and salt, to taste

Pierce the sausage with a fork. Cook it in a large skillet on medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Remove it from the skillet. Cut it into bite-size pieces; set aside. Add a quarter of a cup of dressing and the chicken to the skillet and then cook, browning the chicken on both sides. Stir in the sausage, mushrooms, broth and remaining dressing. Bring to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch in cold water; add to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over hot rice. Sprinkle with grated cheese.