The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

11:23 PM

Food of the Day - Mushrooms

Posted by Food Pear-ings

Edible Mushrooms

Fungus Facts

*Many mushrooms are very poisonous, so it is important to always know where they came from and never pick wild mushrooms yourself

Mushrooms come is a vast variety in the upwards of 30,000. Most mushrooms are grown commercially but some wild forest mushrooms are available for purchase

Mushrooms are frequently harvested during the rain and is considered optimal conditions
They can be purchased fresh, dried, canned or frozen
What to look for when purchasing fresh:
Firm texture for most is a good identify
Avoid soft spots and uneven color or texture

Cleaning and Storage
Never soak fresh mushrooms in water to clean, you risk diminishing flavor
Use a soft brush under cold water to remove any debris
Fresh mushrooms should be prepared within 3 days of purchase
And stored loosely covered in the refrigerator

When cooking with dried mushrooms  
You will need to soak for about an hour in hot water prior to use
However, if at all possible, always choose fresh mushrooms over dried
for the superior flavor and texture

Some Editable Varieties


A white to light brown button mushroom
With a dome shape
They boast a very richly intense flavor
That fully evolves when cooked
Pleasant when eaten either raw or cooked
These mushrooms
vary in size, shape and color

Chanterelle or Girolle 

Yellowish orange in color 
With a vase shape
Having a nutty and milder flavor
When cooking add late to avoid becoming too chewy
To retain the wonderful flavor, 
be sure not to overcook these mushrooms

Crimini  or Italian Brown 

Light tan to deep brown in color
Another button shaped mushroom
Full bodied and fervent in flavor
This is a very
common mushroom for cooking

Shiitake or Chinese Black Mushroom

Tan to a rich brown in color
With an umbrella shaped cap
A robust flavorful mushroom
Developing a meat like texture when cooked
This mushroom is
very commonly found in Asian cooking


Ranging in color from a soft brown/tan to a grey
With a fluted cap
A smoothly buttery flavor
Due to the tender texture this is a good choice raw
An essential for stir fry and many Asian dishes
It is also used 
to make vegetarian oyster sauce

Enoki or Snow Puff Mushrooms

A pale golden yellow or white in color
With long velvety stems and tiny button heads
A delicate and fruity flavor
Having an almost crisp texture these mushrooms are excellent raw and in salads or on sandwiches
These are often used in Asian soups

Portobello or Portabella

Light to medium brown in color
One of the largest mushrooms, this is an overgrown crimini
A strong earthy flavor
Another on having a “Meat Like” texture
Often used in place of meat on the grill and as a burger substitute 
This meaty mushroom
holds up very well to high-heat cooking


Light to medium brown in color
Toad Stool in shape with a thicker stalk than most comparative to its head
A smooth and meaty texture
A strong poignant flavor
An extravagant endeavor for a beginner due to the price, but worth it!
An excellent addition to most any prepared savory dishes
The thick, meaty stem
on these makes it great to use whole

Morchella (Morel)

(A relative of the ever adored Truffle)
Deep tan to smoky brown
With a sponge-like, cone-shaped head
A pragmatic and nut like flavor
Another expensive guy, but what a treasure
Can be difficult to clean, so take care
Very often used in French cuisine
Note: The darker the head the more pronounced flavor 

Cooking Mushrooms

Be sure to clean your mushrooms thoroughly:
wipe them with a damp cloth or soft brush before use
Remember that mushrooms act like sponges, so don't use too much oil when cooking,
and be sure you do not overcook them,
as they are likely to take in too much liquid, and shrivel.
When slicing mushrooms for cooking,
it is best to cut them into larger chunks; they will shrink as they cook
Choose a mushroom that fits the cooking style:
use heftier, more meaty mushrooms for higher heat, longer cooking applications.

Cooking Idea
Try taking whatever kind of mushrooms are available to you
locally, and sautéing them with oil or butter (or both!)
and adding them
to your favorite pasta sauce
Note: if you have the chance to pick up some 
of the more rare options,
look for morel mushrooms (they have the most exquisite flavor)

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5:25 PM

Cheeses of the World - Three

Posted by Magic of Spice

There are many types of cheeses and so many varieties within these types
From Fresh Cheeses like cream cheese to Hard Cheeses like Gruyere
And from all over the world
We will be featuring a few from different Countries stating with

Gorgonzola Piccante
This is a firm cow's milk blue cheese, from north of Milan
The body is a pale yellow with blue vaining, and a rough red rind
It has a sweet yet sharp flavor with an overal buttery palate
This is an aged cheese whos flavor intensifies with further ageing
With ageing we develope a woody undertone, adding to the spiciness and gentle bite
A full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon would be excellent here

Pecorino Toscano Stagionato
This centuries old sturdy sheep's milk cheese, from Tuscany
Here we have another pale yellow/white interior, and a heavy brown rind that is
 mottled in texture
A nutty flavor with just a hint of salt, and an almost herb like undertone
This is a very pleasing cheese and does well accenting most any dish
This one is a young cheese and really not aged at all
Does well with a Sangiovese

Robiola Bosina
A creamy cow and sheep's milk cheese, from norther Italy
The interior is smooth and silky, it is square and flat with a moldy rind
This creamy cheese has a hint of mushroom, it is mild, sweet and almost milky
This is an absolutely delightful addition for any cheese lover
Another cheese that is really not aged
Try this with a  Dolcetto d'Alba or a Sauvignon Blanc

Fontina Val d'Aosta
A semi-firm cow's milk cheese from the Alpine slopes
An  unpasteurized and full-fat cheese, what a delight
The straw-colored interior with its small round holes, with a brownish rind
 Has a delicate nuttiness  with a hint of honey, and earthy flavors
It is commonly melted and is a main ingredient in Italian fonduta ( Fondue)
Aged for only three months
An Austrian Zweigelt or a good Barolo

If you are able to have availible the most prized of all treasures,
 "The Truffle", this cheese is a must have

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11:55 PM

Food of the Day - Mustard Seed

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Mustard Seed
These tiny little seeds come in a few different colors, each representing a different type of mustard plant.  The seeds from the plants are harvested and used in a variety of ways, most often ground into coarse seed or powder.  There are three types of seeds.
Mustard Plant

Types of Mustard
Sinapis Alba - also known as white mustard, these seeds can vary from an off-white color, to a yellow or light brown shade.  These are probably the most commonly used mustard seeds in use today, and are used (with the inclusion of tumeric for color) to create the well-know yellow mustard seen all over America today.  In the U.S., the word "mustard" often is used synonymously with this type of yellow mustard.
White Mustard Seeds

Brassica Juncea - also know as Indian mustard, these seeds are dark yellow to brownish in color, often used in Indian cuisine.
Brown Mustard Seeds

Brassica Nigra - these seeds are brown to almost black in color, and are very hard.  Of the different types, these are probably the least popular, as they are most difficult to harvest than the other types.
Black Mustard Seeds

Of all the uses for mustard seed, the most obvious is undoubtedly to make mustard.  The seeds of the mustard plants can be ground in varying textures, and mixed with liquids and other spices to create a wet condiment popular across the world.  Depending on the seeds used and the additives used, the seeds of this amazing plant can be used to make yellow mustard, brown mustard, dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, flavored mustards, honey mustard, and many other types of this super-popular condiment.

The next time you go to the store to pick up a bottle of "mustard" for a sandwich or a hot dog, keep in mind that there exists a world of spectacular mustards beyond the standard yellow variety (which really does the name "mustard" a disservice.)
Whole-grain Mustard

Mustard seeds can also be used as a spice in their own right, used whole, cracked, ground, or used as a powder, to flavor many dishes, from barbequed meat dishes, to salads.  Try adding mustard seed into your favorite spice mix, and add a tangy kick to your every day meals!
 Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning

Note: try using Trader Joe's awesome Everyday Seasoning, a plastic grinder filled with mustard seeds and other spices.  It is great to grind right onto a variety of foods, from meats and fishes, to pasta, to salads, to soups and more!
Mustard Oil

Mustard seeds are also used to make mustard oil, which is used in cooking, or in various medical treatments, including massage.

Try out this recipe to make your own English pub mustard:

2 c Dry mustard
1 c Brown sugar; firmly packed
2 ts Salt
1/2 ts Turmeric
12 oz Beer or ale; flat

Combine mustard, brown sugar, salt and turmeric in blender and mix well. With the machine running, add beer in a slow, steady stream and blend until mixture is smooth and creamy, stopping frequently to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Transfer to jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in cool, dark place.
(Mustard recipe taken from Just Recipes).

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