October 19, 2009

Delicate and beautiful, Japanese mushrooms are a celebrated autumn food. They add distinct earthy flavors, interesting textures, and visual elegance to dishes from soups to stir-fries and rice dishes. While some families still forage for them in the wild, many varieties -- shiitake perhaps the most familiar -- are cultivated commercially.

Shiitakes are a staple in my kitchen. I add fresh ones to soups and stir-fries and steep

    Bunashimeji (BOON-ah shih-MEH-gee, aka brown beech): Sold in clusters that could almost be called cute, this mushroom has a springy-crunchy texture and a mildly nutty flavor that makes it a prime candidate for all sorts of dishes. Individual stems or smaller clusters look dramatically pretty in soups, and their texture stands up well in stir-fried and sauteed dishes. They're wonderful in nabe (cook-at-the-table hot pot meals).

    Recipes: Here's a roundup of interesting mushroom recipes. I can't vouch for any of them personally, because I didn't use a recipe when experimenting. But I think if you stick with simple methods (sauteeing, grilling, stir-frying, adding to soups) you can't go wrong. 

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