Fresh shiitakes are a relatively recent addition to the supermarket's produce section, but the dried version of these mushrooms has been widely available for years, especially at Asian markets under the label, "Chinese dried black mushroom."
Cultivated for centuries in China and Japan, the shiitake (pronounced shee- TAH-kay) could be considered the Asian equivalent of the white mushroom for its ubiquitous popularity, according to the late Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.
For centuries, shiitake mushrooms have been used in Asia for colds and flu, poor circulation, upset stomachs and exhaustion.
Shiitake is the Japanese name for the mushroom. Take means mushroom, according to The Oxford Companion to Food,while shii is a tree whose wood plays host to the mushroom.
Originally cultivated on natural oak logs, a process that took two to four years, shiitakes are now grown on man-made sawdust logs in seven weeks. They are available year-round.
Bill Daley writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Mushroom Information Center contributed to this story.
COOKING // Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp towel. Shiitake mushroom stems are much tougher than the caps and should be removed before cooking. But don't throw them away; use in soups or stocks.
The caps can be used like any other mushrooms in cooking: steam, saute, stir-fry or simmer in soups. Their slightly meaty flavor goes great with steak.
NUTRITION // Nutritional information per serving (5 medium mushrooms): 47 calories; 1.3 grams protein; 0.2 gram fat; 1.8 grams fiber
BUYING // Look for plump mushrooms with smooth, unblemished caps with edges that curl under. Those that flare outward or seem floppy are past their prime, according to The New Food Lover's Companion. The caps average 3 to 6 inches in diameter, and some shiitakes sport a pattern of white fissures on their caps. These are perfectly acceptable.
DESCRIPTION // Shiitakes range in color from tan to dark brown with broad, umbrella-shaped caps, wide open veils and tan gills.When cooked, shiitake mushrooms are rich and woodsy with a meaty texture.
STORING // Store the mushrooms in the refrigerator. The New Food Lover's Companion suggests arranging the mushrooms in a single layer on a plate, covering with a damp paper towel and refrigerating for up to three days.
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 six-ounce salmon fillets
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
3 ounces snow peas
Remove and discard stems of mushrooms. Slice mushrooms (makes about 3 1/2 cups); set aside. In a large skillet,over medium heat,heat oil until hot.
Add salmon (do not crowd pan); cook, turning once until center is almost opaque, about 6 minutes; remove and keep warm. To skillet, add ginger, garlic, teriyaki sauce, the reserved mushrooms and 1/2 cup water.
Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 4 minutes.Add snow peas; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes.
Serve salmon on a bed of rice, topped with shiitake sauce. If desired, serve with steamed rice and garnish with thinly slivered green onion tops.
Per serving: 361 calories; 41 grams protein; 17 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 7 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 107 milligrams cholesterol; 605 milligrams sodium
The Mushroom Information Center