The other day, Whole Foods offered a great price on Shiitake mushrooms, and it made it into my shopping basket. The flu had already visited our family (an unwelcome visitor to say the least) and since so many health experts have credited shiitake mushrooms with immune strengthening abilities, I wanted to include them in an easy to prepare dish. I also selected fresh thyme and oregano.
Before sharing this recipe, I should probably digress a little and share that I have not always been fond of mushrooms. Raised in Germany, our family was not particularly familiar with mushrooms and certainly never collected any ourselves. To my knowledge, no one that I knew was very familiar with the types of mushrooms that would be safe to eat. During those days, mushrooms were not easily found in grocery stores. When talked about, mushrooms always seemed to have an air of danger attached to them. Probably too many images of toadstools in fairy tales. A distant aunt apparently knew quite a bit about how to forage safely, but sadly, I never had an opportunity to go along on one of her forest walks. I would encourage anyone to take someone along that is very familiar with the varying types of fungi growing in the forests. This post will not teach you how to forage for mushrooms, since that lies beyond my level of expertise, but in researching this a little over the years there are quite a few valuable sites on the web that offer some interesting insights. You can even grown them yourselves, especially if you live in a moderate and relatively moist environment. Slightly more challenging, if not downright impossible, when you live in the High Desert of the Southwest. If mushroom cultivation is of interest to you, Rodale offers some interesting insights in how to go about it, and you can find additional information and even purchase growing medium kits at this Washington State site, as well as here. There is also a fun video on YouTube , created by Sergei Boutenko, showing how chantrelle mushrooms are collected in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. By the way, he also has a very useful Wild Edibles App on iTunes, demonstrating the safety of all Wild Edibles. Please note, that we have absolutely no affiliation with any of these sites and are mentioning them only because they caught our interest.
While living in the Pacific Northwest, we were introduced to many different and unfamiliar foods – shiitake mushrooms being one of them. A little time went by before I had the courage to try out these intriguing looking mushrooms for myself, after a Naturopathic Physician had suggested that they might be a valuable addition to our diet because of the anti-viral, anti-bacterial and generally immune strengthening properties. After that initial slow and cautious introduction, shiitake mushroom have become a staple in many of our dishes ranging from salads, quiches and pasta dishes to toppings for pizza. They are so versatile and easy to incorporate in so many dishes.
With this particular purchase of shiitake mushrooms, I decided to create just a simple rice pasta dish, since we already had some Tinkyada Fettuccini pasta in the pantry. You could, however, also serve this pasta sauce over some raw zucchini pasta, which is equally delicious. This dish is gluten, dairy, corn and soy free and makes about 4 good size servings.
You will need the following:
- 6 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms (you can use dried, just re-hydrate them ahead of them), thinly sliced.
- 1 medium sized onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
- pinch of Himalaya salt
- 1-1/2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
- several springs of thyme, stems removed
- several springs of oregano, using the leaves only
- 1 can (15 oz) of organic whole peeled tomatoes
- a few watercress leaves to top each serving
- 1 packet of Tinkyada gluten free rice fettuccini pasta
Prepare the pasta according to the directions, adding a little extra salt to the cooking water. While the pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan, heat the coconut oil and add the onions and garlic cloves and cook until translucent. Add the shiitake mushrooms and combine with the onions. Turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the turmeric, salt and pepper. Add the peeled tomatoes to a separate bowl, and gently crush the tomatoes. Add all of this to the cooking mushrooms, together with the fresh oregano and thyme. Combine all the ingredients well, allowing for the herbs to infuse the sauce. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes on low heat.
Meanwhile drain the pasta. This particular brand of pasta does not require rinsing, unlike some others that are quite starchy. Serve the sauce over the pasta and top with the watercress leaves.
Whether or not you are in a position to safely forage for mushrooms yourself, or, like us, take advantage of good price options at Whole Foods or your favorite market, mushrooms do offer us another alternative to meat, filled with goodness and immune strengthening qualities. In our case, we chose it in addition to green smoothies, lots of fluids and soups to fight off and ward of the flu. We are all on the mend now and very happy about that. This dish is one of our favorite ‘quick go to meals’ any time of year, that can be easily prepared after a long day’s work, when long preparations are impossible. It also makes for a very satisfying quick lunch. The shiitake mushrooms lend an almost meat-like texture to the sauce. It is truly delicious.