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Top 5 Foods With Surprising Qualities: Mushrooms Part II

Updated on January 30, 2010

Preparation Pointers

Because mushrooms are fragile and bruise easily, clean them just before you're ready to use them, with a soft brush or a damp paper towel. If any dirt remains, wash carefully under cold water and then immediately blot dry. Although it is a major crime to wash any mushrooms that you are about to serve raw as part of a salad or a crudite plate, by all means wash any mushroom that you're going to cook. Washing is not going to make that much difference to the taste or aroma of a cooked mushroom and you certainly don't want to eat anything that mushrooms are grown in!

Mushroom Varieties

Chanterelle
Chanterelles are both collected from the wild and cultivated for market. These mushrooms have a firm texture, and range in color as the darker shades have a peppery flavor. Since their flavor and aroma are so distinctive, allow chanterelles to take center stage as the main feature of a simple pasta, rice or chicken dish.

Selection: Chanterelles are shaped like a small flared horn. Colors are either a golden orange or black. Their aroma ranges from nutty to spicy to nearly floral. When shopping, gently touch the edges to make sure they're firm. Select the ones with the least amount of dirt. Since they are so delicate, take special care when cleaning. Trim off the stems at the base and use immediately. Look for Chanterelles from September through April.

Crimini
These flavorful Italian mushrooms look similar to common button mushrooms but are darker, less watery and more flavorful. They are dense, meaty and tender. The crimini is among the most versatile of mushrooms. They can be eaten fresh, sautéed, baked, stuffed or in sauces.
Selection: Look for crimini that are light tan to medium brown. Their caps should be smooth and firm. Unlike shiitakes, the gills of this mushroom should be completely closed. Because they are grown in climate-controlled conditions, they're available year-round.

Portobello
This mushroom is considered to be the grown-up brother to the crimini. It's grown for a longer period of time and thus develops a substantial texture with a very deep, rich flavor. Portobellos make a terrific ingredient in stir-fries. They can also be sautéed with breading or without. Because their texture resembles that of meat, many use portobellos as a meat substitute. Place one on a bun and eat it like a hamburger.
Selection: The caps of portobellos are large, round and flat like a pancake. Their stems are long and thick. They're light tan and roughly textured, with visible gills on the underside. Trim off the bottom of the stem and remove any dirt. The gills may be scooped out to stuff. Portobellos are available year-round.

Shiitake
One of the most-studied mushrooms for its nutritional benefits, shiitake mushrooms are quickly becoming a popular addition to a variety of dishes. Their woodsy aroma and full-bodied meaty texture make them perfect for sauces and salads.
Selection: Look for shiitakes that are firm and meaty-looking. Their caps should be domed and curled under. Color ranges from brown to black, and length varies from 2 to 8 inches. Avoid shiitakes that have flattened caps. Shiitakes have a longer storage life than many other mushrooms. If properly refrigerated, they'll last for up to 2 weeks. Shiitakes are available year round.

Continued In Top 5 Foods With Surprising Qualities: Oranges

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