Most mushrooms can be used as a seasoning or as a vegetable on their own right.
Mushrooms usually have a mild, delicate flavor, although there are many varieties with different flavors. Used in western and oriental cuisines in sauces, stuffing, soups. As a vegetables they are used in Orient with fish, meat and poultry; also as a side dish in western cuisines. Dried, they are used as seasoning rather than vegetable.
Mushrooms can be eaten on their own. but also give a unique flavor to many other dishes, soups, meats, pates, fish, even other vegetables. One of the most praised delicacies is an omelet or a dish of scrambled eggs made with egg stored in an airtight container together with a truffle for a couple of days - keep the container in the fridge.
In prehistoric times, mushrooms were considered supernatural. Not surprising considering how they grow, and how mushrooms seem to appear and disappear as if by magic. Some produce visions and hallucinations, many are poisonous, a few fatal, the remaining edible, and within these edible mushrooms, a few are true delicacies.
Aztecs ate a type of mushroom, sacred to them, in ceremonial rituals to induce visions. Egyptians thought mushrooms gave immortality. Romans only ate mushrooms on special occasions, the most sumptuous banquets, and used only the good silverware - silver and amber cutlery - to do it.
How to identify mushrooms
Mushrooms usually have the shape of an open umbrella. The flesh is soft and feels like a sponge. Each variety has its unique flavor and aroma.
Mushrooms can be found fresh and dried. You can also find powdered mushrooms made from ground dried mushtooms.
How to use and store
For fresh mushrooms, remove grit and earth. In general, the recommendation of the chef is to wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth, clean truffles with a brush, halve and wash morels. Fresh mushrooms keep 1-2 days in the fridge. Truffles can be frozen wrapped in foil; otherwise, keep stored in a cool, dark place, in a jar with rice, for 2-3 days.
You can add dried slices of boletus mushroom directly to soups, but often dried mushrooms need to be re-hydrated before cooking. As a rule of the thumb, soak in tepid or warm water for 20 to 30 minutes. The remaining liquid - filtered - can be used to add extra flavor. use with care as the flavor of dried mushrooms is much more intense than that of the fresh ones.
Shiitake mushrooms, an Oriental type, are used almost exclusively as a seasoning.
Use ground mushrooms to enhance flavor of soups, sauces and stews, add to coating flour.
How to grow
Mushrooms grow very quick. They need dead organic matter. If you are to grow them at home, you need to introduce the spawn in composted animal manure, rotten straw... or get a kit that with compost already spawned. They don't like direct sunlight. Grow them in the shade, in a covered place. They like an even temperature and water. If you have a cellar, that could be a good place.
Cooking with mushrooms
Mushrooms add flavor to a wide variety of sauces and stuffings. They are great in soups and combining more than one kind of mushroom may produce great results..
1 lb fresh mushrooms = 4-5 cups sliced, or 2 cups cooked
2-3 oz dried mushrooms = 1 lb fresh
Mushrooms satisfy your hunger for umami, the fifth detectable flavor and a flavor to add to the list of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. That is why they are so appreciated as flavorings. Dried mushrooms , reconstituted or not, are a fair option to add flavor.
If you are adding herbs and spices other than mushrooms to your dish, think cardamom, chervil, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, savory, soy sauce, or tarragon, apart from salt and pepper.
If you are cooking and you find you don't have a particular type of mushroom, as a rule of thumb, you can:
- Substitute 1 Tbs or 1 oz dried mushrooms with 6-8 oz or 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms. Alternatively, use 4 oz or 1 cup of drained canned mushrooms.
- Substitute 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms with 1/2 Tbs dried mushrooms + 1/2 cup boiling water, or 1/2 cup drained canned mushrooms.
- Substitute 1 Tbs ground mushrooms with 3 Tbs whole dried mushrooms, use a spice grinder if necessary, 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, or 1/2 cup drained canned mushrooms.