Sunday, August 9, 2009

Testing Dried Mushrooms

After testing Palm Leaf Plates from a while back, I emailed them to thank them for the opportunity to try a new product. I really liked the plates as an earth friendly and stylish alternative to paper plates. Justin emailed me back saying he was glad I liked them, and he asked if I would like to test out any other new products that they're offering. He offered to send me some new dried chilies that they had just started carrying, but I admitted that I am a wimp when it comes to spicy food. Then he offered one of my favorite things to cook with... mushrooms! Not just any mushrooms, either. Dried mushrooms in a ton of varieties.

I have had mixed experiences with dried mushrooms, so I was eager to see what the Marx ones were like. We've used dried shiitake mushrooms from the Asian grocery stores before, and I haven't been too impressed with their texture and flavor when reconstituted. The Marx dried mushrooms seemed to be better quality when they arrived, and they were different types that would be fun to compare.

After soaking them in hot water, the mushrooms looked and tasted close to fresh.

I went for the porcini ones first, because they're used frequently in Italian food, and it's a cuisine I'm comfortable playing around with. I had brought some basic marinara sauce home from work, and I thought mushrooms would be a great way to enhance this basic sauce. I put the porcini and lobster mushrooms into a bowl, covered them with boiling water, and let the mushrooms soak while I started on the rest of dinner. I had a couple links of Trader Joe's chicken Italian sausage in my fridge, so I took it out of the casings and browned the sausage in a saucepan. When the mushrooms were soft, I removed them from the water. Save that water, though, because it has tons of yummy mushroom flavor at this point! I chopped the mushrooms and added them in with the sausage, then poured in the marinara sauce and about a cup of the water from the mushrooms. I simmered this sauce for 20 or 30 minutes, until most of the water was gone. Mixing this sauce with whole wheat pasta made for a quick and healthy dinner, and the dried mushrooms helped elevate this basic sauce to another level.

Sun Dried Tomato Paste is another trick to add extra flavor to a basic tomato sauce.

The finished pasta, with a fresh salad to round out the meal.

I was really pleased with the texture and flavor of the porcini and lobster mushrooms-- easy to bite, not watery tasting, almost like the real thing. I'm not going to lie... I have a feeling fresh lobster or porcini mushrooms would be better, but these are really not bad and soooo convenient! I like that you could have your favorite dried mushrooms on hand in your pantry, ready to use at any point. I'm going to keep testing the different varieties they sent me, and I plan to order a bag of my favorite type to keep in my kitchen. I've also tried the Oyster and Maitake in a soy sesame stir fry with tempeh, and they were a nice addition. So far porcini is my top pick, but I will keep you posted if I fall in love with any of the others I still get to try!

I mixed Oyster and Maitake mushrooms into this stir fry, with broccoli, snap peas, and marinated tempeh.

The finished stir fry... yum!

Check out to learn more about what they have to offer, and let me know if you try any that you really like!

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