Archive for September, 2010

Celebrating the Magical Mushroom

Last weekend we had the pleasure of visiting Kennett Square, Pennsylvania to be a part of the 25th annual Mushroom Festival. Kennett has long been known as “The Mushroom Capital of the World,” with more mushroom growing operations concentrated in the Southern Chester County area than any other area in the U.S. The festival has grown from being one block long to now stretching more than half a mile. This year, more than 50,000 visitors attended to celebrate our favorite fungus.

Of course, we attended in an official capacity – making it our business to sample all the mushroom cuisine available. In addition to the variety of mushroom soups available, we tried mushroom risotto, mushroom pizza, mushroom spring rolls, mushroom strudels, and – of course – the legendary mushroom ice cream (which is so creamy and delicious)!

But our main purpose for being at the Mushroom Festival was for the mushroom nutrition presentations. We call mushrooms “Nature’s Hidden Treasure” for a reason – mushrooms are all low in calories, sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free and full of essential nutrients.

This year, we invited four of the nation’s top researchers to spread the word on the benefits of including mushrooms in your diet, including:

  • Dr. Shiuan Chen from City of Hope was first to speak about his research on mushrooms and breast cancer. He and his team of scientists were some of the first to study the potential effects of white button mushrooms on cancer and are now applying this research in human clinical trials. We worked to raise additional money for Dr. Chen’s research by creating a Wall of Pink at the festival. With a $1 donation, attendees could sign a pink mushroom and add it to the wall.

  • Dr. Michael Holick, professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at Boston University Medical Center, and Dr. Mona Calvo, a nutritional scientist at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), shared the latest research on vitamin D. You probably already know that the friendly fungus is the only item in the produce aisle to have vitamin D. Dr. Holick talked about the various reasons vitamin D is so important to our health while Dr. Calvo discussed how her team was one of the first to propose exposing cultivated mushrooms to ultra-violate light after harvesting in order to increase their vitamin D2 content.
  • Finally, Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, closed the day by discussing his research on using mushrooms as an effective substitute for meats. His preliminary research suggests increasing intake of low-energy density-foods, specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, can be an effective method for reducing daily energy and fat intake while still feeling full and satiated after meals.

While the official Mushroom Festival only happens once a year, we all know it’s a mushroom celebration every day here on the Mushroom Channel. Check out more photos from the event on our Facebook album.

Mushroom Masters: Shiitake Showdown

Hello mushroom fans! We are now half way through our Mushroom Masters: A Tournament of Taste competition. In this third week of our global challenge, our three bloggers have taken on the meaty, full-bodied Shiitake mushroom. Representing the U.S. in full fungi force is Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy—yes, everything on her blog is as fun as its name!

Just like last week, we will need your vote for Susan’s just-in-time-for-Fall Shiitake pork dumplings recipe on Tastespotting, so don’t forget to show her your tasty patriotism!

Shiitake-Pork Dumplings in Shiitake Mushroom Broth (by Susan Filson)


For the broth:

3 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms

2-3 cups boiling water to cover

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and rinsed

3 cloves garlic, whole

1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

1 stalk lemongrass, outer layers and dark top removed

1/2 cup julienned carrots

2 cups baby bok choy, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar

Salt to taste

1/2 cup sliced scallions for garnish

For the dumplings:

2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1/4 cup minced scallions

Reserved dried shiitake mushroom caps (about 5), finely minced

Reserved 1/2 pound fresh, sliced shiitake mushroom caps, finely minced (You can do this in the food processor.)

1/2 pound ground pork

2 tsp cornstarch

1/2 cup silken tofu

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 cup warm water

1 16-oz. package dumpling wrappers (look for the Twin Marquis brand, Hong Kong style)


To make the broth:

Place dried shiitakes in a bowl and pour boiling water on top. Set aside and let steep for at least 30 minutes.  Strain the mushrooms over a second bowl, pressing out and reserving all liquid.  Pull off and discard the shiitake stems. Finely mince caps and set aside for dumplings.

Separate stems from fresh shiitakes and thinly slice mushroom caps. Set aside.

Bring broth and reserved mushroom liquid to a simmer in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add stems, garlic, ginger and lemongrass, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Strain mixture into clean pot, using a sieve lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Bring back to a simmer and add 1/2 of the sliced shiitakes, carrots and bok choy and simmer for 15 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender.  Stir in rice vinegar and keep hot until ready to serve.

Makes approximately 8 cups of broth.

To make the dumplings:

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger, garlic and scallions sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Mix in the mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender and any liquid released from the mushrooms has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

Pulse the pork in a food processor a few times to loosen it up and give it a smoother consistency.  Place pork in a large bowl and mix in cornstarch, tofu, salt, sugar, sesame oil, wine, oyster sauce and cooled mushroom mixture, incorporating well.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You can do this step ahead and keep in the fridge overnight.

To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Holding the dumpling wrapper flour side down, place a teaspoonful of filling onto the middle of the wrapper.  Fold dumpling in half, crimping it in the middle and sealing along the moistened edge, taking care not to leave any air pockets. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.  Keep finished dumplings on a parchment lined baking sheet covered with a damp dishtowel to keep them from drying out.

To steam the dumplings, fill a wok or pot with about 1 inch of water.  Bring water to a simmer.  Prepare a steamer lined with parchment paper.  Spray parchment lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Place as many dumplings as will fit into the steamer, without touching each other.  Place steamer over the wok or pot, cover and steam dumplings for about 10-12 minutes, until pork is cooked through.

Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

To serve, place 3 or 4 dumplings each in individual bowls. Ladle mushroom broth over dumplings and garnish with fresh sliced scallions.

Makes approximately 48 dumplings. Serves 8.

Roasted Mushrooms & Kabocha Squash by La Fuji Mama

Editor’s Note: Rachael is the inventive home chef behind La Fuji Mama. Now a mother of two, many of her dishes take inspiration from the time she spent living in Japan.  Check out her recipe below but make the jump over to her main site when you’re done!

I love when the weather starts to turn cooler and the late summer/early fall produce starts showing up at my farmer’s market.  Mushrooms are wonderful additions to roasted vegetable dishes for a fall dinner.  One of my favorite foods shows up at this time of year—kabocha squash (pronounced “kah-bow-cha”), sometimes called Japanese pumpkin or Japanese squash.

Kabocha has hard, knobbly green skin and bright golden orange-yellow flesh and, like mushrooms, is very popular in Japan.  When cooked, the flesh is rich, creamy, and slightly sweet.  It’s a bit like butternut squash, but even better in my opinion.  Kabocha is rich in beta carotene, iron, potassium, and vitamin C.  Pairing mushrooms with kabocha creates a dish that gives a fantastic nutritional punch.

I washed and sliced my first Kabocha of the season into thin 1/4-inch slices.  I chose to leave the rind on, as this is often done in Japanese cuisine.  When it is cooked, the rind softens and is delicious, so I find that removing it takes more effort than it’s worth.  Plus, I think the rich green color adds nice contrast to the dish.

I tossed the slices in olive oil and baked them for 25 minutes.  Then I added fresh sliced Shiitake and baby bella mushrooms, garlic, and fresh basil and put it back into the oven to continue roasting.  When the kabocha was nice and tender, I sprinkled some panko breadcrumbs over the top (you can use regular breadcrumbs, but I love the texture of panko), baked it for another 10 minutes, and then it was done!  The creamy sweetness of the kabocha was delicious with the meaty, juicy mushrooms.

I garnished the dish with a bit of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice) to add some flavor and heat, and served it with a simple roasted chicken.  This dish is a perfect addition to a fall meal.  Not only is it rich in nutrition, but it’s delicious and adds some beautiful autumn color to the table.

Roasted Mushrooms & Kabocha Squash

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds kabocha squash
6 tablespoons olive oil
about 8 ounces fresh Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
about 6 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice) or cayenne pepper, to garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wash the outside of the kabocha, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and cut the flesh into 1/4-inch slices (leaving the rind on).

2. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish.  Add the slices of squash, then drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.  Carefully turn the slices of squash in the pan to coat them evenly in the oil.  Bake for 25 minutes.

3. Remove from the oven and add the mushrooms, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.  Carefully mix everything together, then spread everything out evenly in the baking dish (so that it will cook evenly).  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more olive oil if the squash is looking dry already, or if the added ingredients do not appear to have been coated in any residual olive oil.

4. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender.  Scatter the panko breadcrumbs over the top and bake for another 10 minutes.  Serve warm or even at room temperature, sprinkled with a tiny bit of shichimi togarashi or cayenne pepper.

* Variations: If you cannot find kabocha, you can substitute the same amount of butternut or acorn squash.  If you do this, remove the rind and carefully watch the cooking time, as it will vary slightly.  You can substitute your favorite fresh herbs for the basil.  A bit of sage or rosemary would be especially delicious.  You can mix 1 tablespoon of melted butter with the breadcrumbs before adding them to make more of a crust, or use fresh grated parmesan cheese in place of the breadcrumbs.

Mushroom Masters: Button Battle

Welcome, mushroom fans, to the second week of competition for the Mushroom Masters: A Tournament of Taste.  This week our three bloggers have taken on artful presentations of recipes featuring the most popular mushroom in the world: the classic white button. Our champion this week? Maggie of Pithy and Cleaver (we find her blog’s name to be perfectly suited for a “battle” of this nature).

Just like last week, we will need your vote for Maggie’s masterpiece over on Tastespotting.  It’s the tastiest kind of patriotism there is.

These stuffed mushrooms aren’t quite traditional; they’re filled with creamy blue cheese and tangy Buffalo sauce. They’re sure to be a hit amongst lovers of hot wings.

Buffalo and Blue Cheese-Stuffed Button Mushrooms

Olive oil
20 button mushrooms
3/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb Great Hill Blue Cheese or other mild blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Frank’s RedHot Sauce
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup panko, divided

*Additional Frank’s RedHot Sauce for serving

Preheat oven to 375°F, and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Cut ends from stems and chop finely. Chop two of the mushrooms finely as well. Dice shallots. Melt butter in a heavy 4 qt pan and add shallots. Sauté over medium-low heat until transparent and then add chopped mushrooms and stems. Saute until softened and remove pan from heat. Stir in blue cheese, Frank’s sauce, and 1/2 cup panko, stir until smooth.

Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Brush mushroom caps with oil and spread out on cookie sheet. Fill each mushroom cap with a spoonful of the cheese stuffing, letting it mound just slightly on the top of the mushroom. Sprinkle the remaining panko over the top. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until mushrooms are soft. If you have a broiler, feel free to turn it on for a minute or two to crisp up the top, but watch it carefully.

Serve with additional hot sauce.

Mushrooms in the News

Mushrooms add the ‘meat’ If you needed an excuse to add mushrooms to your menu, the Bismarck Tribune makes the case.  Not only do mushrooms offer something toothsome and remarkably “meaty”, but they give off bursts of flavor with every bite.  As the journalist describes, “Mushrooms are also fantastic little sponges, soaking up the briny, salty or savory flavors of liquids in a dish and happily releasing them as you chew.”  With three recipes included, you won’t be hard pressed for options.  The difficult part is deciding which to try first!

Table Talk: Mushrooms really are magical Some people love mushrooms and some people love mushrooms.  Debbie Salomon of the Burlington Free Press is definitely one of the latter.  Really, what’s not to love?  Low in calories, high in taste, satisfying texture and versatility are just a few of mushrooms’ strengths.

The Magic of Mushrooms From nutrients to disease fighting phytochemicals, mushrooms have it all. Indeed, this brief from Reader’s Digest is probably the tightest, most credible, fact-filled description of why everyone should eat mushrooms, for the health of it.

Never underestimate the power of mushrooms As this Miami Herald article points out, “those ancient healers might have been onto something” when prescribing mushrooms to patients.  The article notes that white button mushrooms have been shown to help boost the body’s immune system and the mushroom family as a group contains the nutrients necessary to help prevent skin aging.  That’s one beautiful food!