New kinds of mushrooms are popping up in grocery stores, leading to questions from cooks and consumers. What are the leading varieties, and how do you select and store them?
1) Chefs have always loved mushrooms, and now so do home cooks. "Mushrooms are the hottest item in produce," said Willie Itule, owner of Itule Produce in Phoenix, which ships mushrooms to Arizona stores and restaurants daily. Mushrooms have an earthy taste, are low in carbohydrates, and contain no fat, cholesterol or sodium. Select mushrooms that are smooth, firm and unblemished. Handle with care - mushrooms bruise every time they are touched. Do not wash before storing. Keep them in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Before cooking or serving, rinse quickly in cool water, drain and shake off water.
2) The white, or agaricus, is the most common variety. Whites vary in color from creamy white to light brown and in size from small, or button, to jumbo. Their mild and woodsy flavor intensifies when cooked. Serve raw as an hors d'oeuvre, or use as a garnish in salads. They also can be saut?ed and served as a side dish, or added to soups, sauces and stuffings.
3) Italian brown, or crimini, look similar to whites but are light tan to rich brown. They have a deeper, denser and earthier flavor than whites. These hearty, full-bodied mushrooms pair well with beef, wild game, vegetables and Italian pasta dishes.
4) Shiitake, or Chinese, mushrooms range in color from tan to dark brown. Their umbrella-shaped caps have a soft, spongy texture. This richly flavored mushroom acquires a meaty texture after cooking; in fact, shiitakes are best cooked, and work well with most cooking techniques. The mushroom adds a meaty flavor to stir-fries, pastas, soups, stews and side dishes.
5) Oyster mushrooms are fluted, graceful and range from soft brown to gray. This mild, delicate variety is best when cooked. Oyster mushrooms go well with chicken, veal, seafood and pork. Saut?ing with butter and onions brings out the full flavor. Add to soups and sauces.
6) Portobello is a crimini that is allowed to grow. It's larger, heartier and can reach 6 inches in diameter. Portobellos have a meatlike flavor and dense texture. Grill for a vegetarian burger, or stuff for appetizers. Add portobellos to stir-fry dishes, sauces and hearty vegetarian casseroles.
7) Enoki looks like a flower with a long, slender stem. It has a mild, light flavor with a slight crunch. Use raw in salads and sandwiches.