Photo by Judith Hausman
Another project at my farm garden is inoculating logs with shiitake mushroom spores for a crop of meaty mushrooms. Before the more Mediterranean vegetables come in around here, earthy shiitake mushrooms are a treat with all the other early vegetables.
My portion of shiitake mushrooms had dried out a bit by the time I got them home, so I began by weighing them down in a dish of water for an hour or so. Water does wash away some of the spore-carried flavor, though. Try to brush away as much dirt or particles as possible rather than running the shiitake mushrooms under a lot of water. I then trimmed off the hard stem and sliced the caps thickly while I decided what else I should toss into the quick sauté with them.
Nearly anything will work, really. Garlic scapes, of course, and some onion to begin with, and I had some rich, leftover ham, trimmed off the bone. Any kind of fat enhances the umami taste of mushrooms, so using (vegetarian) butter or even (vegan) olive oil is just fine, too. The mushrooms should brown and soften but not be overcooked. That’s the basic; now let your local growing season inspire you.
Once you have a mix that you like, match it with nearly any carbohydrate. Serve the sauté piled on slices of toasted baguette or country bread, on top of polenta, Asian-style rice or Italian-style risotto. Try quinoa or wheat berries. I picked whole-wheat pasta corkscrews and added another dollop of oil to spread the flavors around the cooked pasta. A few spoonfuls of good grated Parmesan and some chopped parsley garnished the light dinner dish.
Basic Shiitake Mushroom Sauté
- about a dozen medium shiitake mushrooms, soaked if necessary, patted dry, trimmed and sliced
- 2 tablespoons oil or butter (and more depending, on what you serve it with)
- 1-2 garlic scapes or 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
- a small onion, diced
- 2-3 tablespoons parsley or tarragon, chopped
Heat the butter or oil in a wide pan. Add the garlic and onion and sauté lightly. Turn up the heat a little and add the mushrooms, tossing them around until the slices are slightly browned and softer. Season to taste, and top with chopped parsley and grated cheese, if desired.
About enough for four, depending on what you serve it on top of.
Much, much more…
Add a cup of leftover, good quality ham, diced, to the sauté. Or add 4 to 6 slices of prosciutto, diced, at the end of cooking.
Add ¼ cup red or white wine to the onion and garlic before the shiitake mushrooms. Let the booze reduce a little.
Add thinly sliced young carrots and peapods, sugar snaps or English peas at the same time as the mushrooms.
Add beet greens and chard, chopped, or spinach and arugula, near the end of cooking. Add thinly sliced summer squash and red peppers at the same time as the mushrooms. Or stir in chopped roasted red peppers at the end of cooking. Maybe some black olives, too?