Saturday, December 12, 2009

Maitake 舞茸

You've probably noticed that the supermarkets have stepped it up in the mushroom department recently.  Fall means shrooms in Japan and the variety here is impressive.  This week we'll talk about maitake, which has weird, gross-sounding names in English like "Sheep's Head."  I don't know what kind of sheep the guy hangs out with that came up with that name but my sheep tend to be less mutated.  Like most mushrooms, maitake is a good source of selenium, B-vitamins and potassium.  It's also been shown in studies to help boost the immune system of cancer patients, so if you think you might have cancer stock up on maitake!

How to Prepare
Cut off the base of the mushroom where it still has some growing medium left on it (yuck).  After that, do whatever you feel like with it!  Chop, dice, shred, boil, steam, grill, the possibilities are endless.

Easy Maitake Recipe

One of my favorite recipe for autumn.  It's easy to modify with whatever you have on hand.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Serves 10 bajillion people (seriously, you'll get 8-10 servings easy from this)

Prep Time: About 1 hour


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 ribs celery with leaves, diced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small package maitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small package enoki mushrooms, bottom 1/3 removed
  • 1 small package shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 8-10 cups water
  • 2 beef or vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup whole barley
1. Heat oil in a stockpot and sauté the onion, celery, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, carrot, garlic, thyme and fresh mushrooms until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Lower the heat and add the flour, stirring every 30 seconds for about 5 minutes or until thick.
3. Add the water and bouillon cubes to the pot, constantly stirring, until vegetables are immersed.
4. Turn the heat to high, and add the barley. Stir well and add salt to taste.
5. Simmer, covered, for about an hour or until the barley is tender and the soup is thickened, stirring often.
6. Add additional chopped parsley, mix thoroughly, and adjust seasonings.
7. Finished!

You can add and subtract just about anything from this recipe.  I often like to skip the carrots and add zucchini when I can findthem on sale.

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