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A Fungus Among Us

Cathy Christensen November 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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My father is one of those rare individuals who is truly self-sufficient, a good person to have around in an emergency. A farmer, Vietnam veteran and an agriculturalist, my dad can grow anything. He sets up bizarre greenhouse contraptions around the house during the winter months, nurturing vegetables and fruits from tiny seeds, coaxing them to thrive—and they do.

This ingenuity also spills over into his mushroom hunts. I remember Mom—who grew up in urban Indianapolis—bravely cleaning, breading and frying his spoils, and, after I got over the weirdness of the fact that my dad hunts mushrooms, I tried one of the crispy delights. To this day, I crave the earthy, salty flavor of the wild mushrooms dad gathered that just melted in my mouth.

And although I have yet to encounter the same flavor anywhere else, mushrooms of many kinds are prevalent in gourmet and everyday recipes, and are now becoming commonplace in skin care treatments and products, as well.

In the kitchen

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Quick Facts: Mushrooms

  • Ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms paved the way to immortality, and ancient Romans believed they were a food of the gods and gave mushrooms to warriors at special feasts to increase their strength.4
  • A 14th century Chinese medical text claims shiitake mushrooms can be used to activate chi, the body’s natural life force.4
  • France led the formal cultivation of mushrooms and grew them in special caves near Paris set aside for this type of agriculture.4
  • Europe’s biggest mushroom was found in a Swiss national park in 2004—it is a 1,000-year-old fungus that covers an area roughly equivalent to 100 football fields.4
  • Some mushrooms are bioluminescent, and the jack-o’-lantern mushroom can produce enough light to read by.4

Recipe: Lentil and Shiitake Roll-ups with Tomatillo Lime and Roasted Corn Salsa

From Executive Chef Chad Luethje at Miraval Tucson in Catalina, ArizonaLentil and Shitake Roll-ups with Tomatillo Lime and Roasted Corn Salsa

Makes 6 servings, 285 calories, 9.5 grams of fat per serving

Tomatillo Lime and Roasted Corn Salsa ingredients:

1⁄4 habanero pepper, stemmed and minced

1⁄2 scallion, chopped

1 onion, chopped

6 tomatillos, chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1⁄2 cup nopales, cooked and cut in large dice

1⁄2 cup roasted fresh corn

Juice of one lime

1. Place all of the ingredients, except the lime, roasted corn and nopales, in a food processor and pulse until chunky.

2. Add the corn, nopales and lime juice, season to taste and set aside until ready to use.

Roll-up ingredients:

1⁄2 onion, julienned

2 cloves garlic, minced

1⁄2 cup lentils

1⁄2 cup potatoes, diced

1 cup shiitake mushroom, stemmed and sliced

2 cups fresh spinach, trimmed and washed

4 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

1⁄4 teaspoon of chili flakes

1⁄2 cup of feta cheese

6 flour tortillas

2 cups of tomatillo salsa

6 springs of cilantro for garnish

6 radishes, washed and trimmed

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Make the salsa as the recipe indicates.

3. In a sauté pan sprayed lightly with vegetable spray, sauté onion for five minutes, stirring.

4. Add the potatoes, mushrooms and garlic, and cook 10 minutes, stirring.

5. Add the lentils and stock, and cook an additional 25 minutes.

6. Remove the pan from the stove and fold in the spinach, oregano and chili flakes, together with the lentils. If necessary, drain off excess liquid in a strainer or colander. The veggie mix should be moist, but not too wet or it will make the tortilla soggy.

7. Add the feta and fold into the mix well.

8. On the stove, heat a dry sauté pan over low heat and warm each tortilla. Cover the hot tortillas with a cloth napkin, tea towel or just place them in a plastic bag so they don’t dry out. Tortillas are easier to work with when they have been warmed.

9. Place two tablespoons of the lentil veggie mix in the lower part of each tortilla and roll them up. Carefully place your tortilla roll ups seam side down in a lightly sprayed oven-proof dish. Bake on the center rack in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the tortilla roll-ups are crispy and golden brown. Serve with Tomatillo Lime and Roasted Corn Salsa.

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