Every time my family ordered pizza when I was a kid, my dad would find some way to sneak mushrooms onto a corner of that pizza, possibly tucked under a layer of cheese per special instruction to the pizza parlor. He loved them but I was stubbornly convinced that a single mushroom would ruin the entire pizza. Now that I’m older and have developed a more refined palate (ok fine, I still love Cinnamon Toast Crunch), I’ve come to understand how just special mushrooms are in the world of cuisine. They provide an extraordinary variety of texture and flavors which seem to adapt to any kind of dish. And, as a bit of icing on the cake, I’ve learned how mushrooms are truly wonderful for your health. Consider this my ode to the mushroom.
When it comes to health, edible mushrooms are a right up there with other super-foods green tea and broccoli. After all, the first antibiotics were extracted from fungi. Being 80-90% water, mushrooms are low in calories, while still being high in fiber. They are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low in sodium (especially good for those on a hypertensive diet). Here are some other reasons to sneak more mushrooms into your cooking:
- Mushrooms are considered probiotic, meaning that they help the body to strengthen itself and ward off illness. Part of mushrooms’ probiotic ability comes from their high percentage of the nutrient riboflavin.
- Mushrooms are a great source of potassium, a mineral which helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. A medium portabella mushroom has more potassium than a glass of orange juice or a banana.
- Phytonutrients found in mushrooms have been at the center of anti-cancer research for decades. In mushroom spores many countries, medicinal mushrooms are used as an adjunct to other cancer treatments.
White mushrooms actually range in color from white to light brown, and come in many different sizes. The smaller varieties of white mushrooms are called button mushrooms and are easily the most popular mushroom in cooking, found in most grocery stores. Freshly picked white mushrooms have a mild or delicate flavor. As the caps darken, they develop a richer taste.
- Recent studies have shown that white mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast and prostrate cancer.
Grilled Lemon Shrimp with Mushrooms
This healthy meal is perfectly seasoned with light lemon juice and garlic, grilled to perfection and then stuffed into a pita. Carb-friendly and delicious!
8 oz. fresh white mushrooms
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 medium-sized zucchini, sliced 1 inch thick (about 2 1/2 C.)
1 medium-sized red onion cut in 8 wedges
1/4 C. olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 pitas, warmed
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:
1 C. plain low-fat yogurt
1 C. peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint or parsley
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat outdoor grill or broiler until hot. Leave small mushrooms whole; halve larger ones. In a large bowl, place mushrooms, shrimp, zucchini and red onion. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and black pepper, and pour over vegetables; toss until well-coated. Place vegetables and shrimp on a vegetable grilling rack or a rack in a broiler pan. Grill or broil no more than 6 inches from heat until vegetables and shrimp are just cooked, about 8 minutes, stirring often and brushing occasionally with remaining marinade. Serve on pitas with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce.