Q: Are mushrooms good for you?
A: Oh yes! In fact, mushrooms provide a range of nutrients. Fresh mushrooms have nearly 300 milligrams of potassium per cup, and only 20 calories and zero grams of fat.
They also offer many other nutrients, including copper and the B vitamins of riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. In addition, mushrooms are rich in two antioxidants — selenium and ergothioneine. Antioxidants may help protect cells from damage. Cellular damage may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Select mushrooms that are firm and have a fresh, smooth appearance. Surfaces should be dry but not dried out, and appear plump. A closed veil under the cap indicates a delicate flavor, while an open veil and exposed gills mean a richer flavor.
Refrigerate mushrooms in original packaging for up to a week. Once opened, store mushrooms in a paper bag for longer shelf-life; avoid storing in airtight containers, which can cause condensation and quicken spoilage. Fresh mushrooms should never be frozen, but frozen sautéed mushrooms will keep for up to a month.
To clean mushrooms, brush off any dirt with a damp paper towel or fingers. Rinse fresh mushrooms only briefly under running water and pat dry with a paper towel. They absorb moisture so never soak them. Trim the end of the stem before using.
Here are some easy ways to include mushrooms in your diet:
• Slice and sauté white button mushrooms to top a pizza, toss in pasta or wrap in a quesadilla.
• Combine earthy flavored and hearty-textured brown (crimini) mushrooms with beef, poultry or vegetable dishes.
• Marinade and grill meaty portobellos and serve on a bun for a great-tasting veggie burger.
• Jazz up sandwiches or soups with enoki mushrooms for added crunch and eye appeal.
• Add taste to pasta, steak, pork or chicken with oyster mushrooms.
• Round out the richness of a main dish or side dish meal with maitakes, which have a unique aroma and woodsy flavor.
• Enjoy the richness and texture of heated shiitakes in vegetable dishes as well as meat-based dishes.
Mushroom Primavera with Spaghetti Squash
1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup crumbled, fat-free feta cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
With the tip of a knife, pierce squash in about five places. Place on paper towel in microwave and cook on high for 10 minutes or until squash has softened. When cool enough to handle, cut squash lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Remove the spaghetti-like strands of squash with a fork, set aside and cover to keep warm (or reheat in microwave at serving time).
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a single layer of mushrooms and cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Stir in onion and garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, until onions are softened. Add tomatoes, cheese and olives and cook about 3 minutes longer, until mixture is hot and bubbling. Remove pan from heat and stir in basil.
Divide squash among four shallow serving bowls. Spoon sauce over spaghetti squash and garnish with additional freshly chopped basil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.