Monday, October 8, 2012
My father-in-law took a course in mushroom identification. He would go out into the field with his guidebook looking for specimens. Yet much as he liked to eat mushrooms, I don’t think he ever picked any in the wild. He was a smart man. Wild mushrooms can be dangerous to eat. Some have toxins that can cause digestive or respiratory problems that are uncomfortable, while others are downright life-threatening. But the right kind of mushroom (and there are many varieties to choose from) is delicious.
Which brings me to agaricus, a common whitish field mushroom. Button mushrooms fall into this category. I saw some mushrooms that looked sort of like golf balls. They grow on lawns all around my house. Tempting as it was to pick and cook, I limited my appreciation to the visual. Then I went out to my favorite market and bought a carton of safely farmed produce that I can enjoy without worry.
I tend to be casual when I cook and mushrooms are so easy to work with, they make perfect dishes. I like to sauté crimini mushrooms in a little olive oil with chopped basil, garlic, and pine nuts, then sprinkle on a little grated cheese, serve them over pasta and yum. Portobello mushrooms are great stuffed with almost anything – rice, ground turkey or beef, tofu, squash, spinach – drizzle a little sauce of your choice over the top and bake. Shitaki mushrooms lend themselves beautifully to dishes with Asian spices. If you want a more precise way to prepare them and favor a world view of mushroom dishes, take a look here:
If anyone has a favorite mushroom dish, please feel free to share. We mushroom lovers will be delighted.
For some mushroom varieties and photos: