Wild About Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms

When my husband and I went upstate a few weeks ago, we stopped at a farm stand on the side of the road. I bought lots of produce, including shiitake mushrooms. Since then, I’ve been pretty obsessed. I like to sauté them in butter with sea salt and pepper, sometimes adding goat cheese. It’s a quick little meal with so much flavor power. The taste is rich, smokey and “meaty”. Interestingly, shiitake contains many of the same amino acids as meat, perhaps that’s why it has a savory flavor. Unlike other mushrooms, the shiitake contains less water which makes for a firm texture.  I’ve also learned the smaller ones are better to use for cooking. They cook faster and are less chewy. Also remove the stems, they’re too ”woody” to eat. With all mushrooms, don’t rinse, use a damp paper towel to remove dirt if needed. Cook in a skillet on medium heat with butter and add a splash of water for steam.

There are two ways the mushrooms are grown – in sawdust or straw in a controlled environment inside or harvested on logs in a forest. As you might guess, the latter method produces a more flavorful mushroom. Log-grown shiitake can be identified by a rounder, darker brown cap. The indoor counterparts are lighter in color with a flatter top.

Shiitake is packed with antioxidants, vitamin B and lots of fiber and low in carbs. Some studies have found extracts from the mushroom may help fight cancer.

Over the past 20 years  farming shiitake mushrooms has become easier as techniques have been streamlined and so the mushrooms are readily available now.  In New York, I’ve noticed shiitake mushrooms have become more and more popular. Many restaurants and eateries use the mushroom in veggie burgers for the texture and rich flavor I mentioned. In fact, our very own Cuisine by Claudette makes a lovely shiitake Lentil Burger. They serve it on a toasted bun with vegan provolone, tomato and pickles. It’s outrageously delicious.

“Shii” means trees and “take” is the Japanese word for mushroom. It simply translates to tree mushroom. Shiitake mushrooms originate in China and Japan and has been cultivated for food and medicinal uses for over 2,000 years!

If I’ve enticed you, find shiitake mushrooms in the Key Food on 89th or The Rockaway Farmers Market on 116th Street. They are so versatile, try them sautéed, in a stir fry, in soup over chicken or beef gravy — you name it!

For more food stuff, follow me on instagram @theglorifiedtomato

Previously published in The Wave.

I’ve been recycling all wrong

items you can rrecycling in nyc

Sadly, film plastic, flexible plastic, and items like razors with metal, l can not be recycled in NYC. Place these single use plastics in your regular trash disposal.

I was surprised to learn that plastic “recycling” bags can not be recycled, among other items such as light bulbs, chip bags, plastic wrap, deodorant containers and toothpaste tubes. These are all things I put into a plastic bag in my garbage can at home, with the thought of,  “It’s fine to use, I’m recycling it.” I feel like a fool!

I learned just how many packaging containers are not recyclable after reading the NPR article “More U.S. Towns Are Feeling The Pinch As Recycling Becomes Costlier” and viewing the accompanying interactive presentation “Plastics”. It was eye-opening.

To add to the confusion and fool-ery, towns and states have different recycling parameters. What one local sanitation department will accept for recycling can differ from the neighboring town.

It’s important to recycle properly because it costs taxpayers money to remove what can not be recycled from your bag at the sorting facility. Why are some items recyclable and others are not? It’s based on the market. Recycling is a business. If it’s too costly for the buyer to repurpose the material, it’s considered a non-recyclable item.

Below is a list of items from www1.nyc.gov website. These items should NOT be included into your recycling can.

  • Paper with heavy wax or plastic coating (candy wrappers, take-out and freezer containers, etc.)
  • Soiled or soft paper (napkins, paper towels, tissues)
  • Hardcover books (schools should follow their school  book recycling procedures)
  • Batteries
  • Electronic devices banned from disposal
  • Printer cartridges
  • Glass items other than glass bottles and jars (such as mirrors, light bulbs, ceramics, and glassware)
  • Window blinds
  • Foam plastic items (such as foam food service containers, cups and trays, foam protective packing blocks, and, and foam packing peanuts)
  • Flexible plastic items (such as single-serve food and drink squeezable pouches and tubes such as toothpaste, lotion, cosmetics, or sports balls such as basketballs, bowling balls, soccer balls, footballs, yoga balls)
  • Film plastic (such as plastic shopping bags and wrappers.) Bring plastic bags and film to participating stores for recycling
  • Cigarette lighters and butane gas lighters
  • Cassette and VHS tapes
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Pens and markers
  • “Tanglers” (such as cables, wires, cords, hoses)
  • Rigid plastic containers containing medical “sharps” or disposable razors
  • Containers that held dangerous or corrosive chemicals

For a complete list of what can and cannot be recycled click here.

According to the recycling industry, only about 9% of plastic waste in the U.S. gets recycled every year. How is this so?

I’m going to challenge myself to recycle smartly and use less plastic. Sometimes I’ll buy pre- chopped vegetables in the soft plastic bags or spinach in a bag. I’m going to stop buying that stuff. These “film plastic” packages are not recycled. Prior to reading the NPR article, I didn’t know that. Likewise, plastic recycling bags, can not be recycled (so confusing??).  I ordered paper bags on amazon to use instead.

I saw this video pop up on facebook about a man named  Afroz Shah, who in Mumbai started cleaning up a beach near his home,  by himself. The shoreline was literally covered in garbage and plastic. His enthusiasm and concern caught on and people started to join in the effort.  Three years later, the beach was clean and sea turtles returned. The video is inspiring and reminded me that our individual effort is worthwhile.


Going Up The Country

I went camping last weekend with my family near Cooperstown. Despite feeling like I might be missing a weekend of Rockaway fun, it was wonderful to be in the country air. There were a few notable happenings I’d like to report.

Impossible Burger

Impossible Burger. On the ride there and the way back, my husband and I stopped for the Impossible Burger at Burger King. I’m kind of addicted.  It’s interesting that fast food places are now serving meat alternatives. It’s great. We’re still talking “fast food” and a processed product but a step in the right direction nonetheless. The Impossible Burger tastes so much like a burger it does seem impossible that it’s vegetarian. All the fixins – mayo, ketchup, lettuce, tomato and the must have pickle slices add to the realness. The texture is on point – crispy outside and light inside, even a little pink and juicy.  The “meat” is made out of soy and potato proteins and it’s gluten free. I can write a whole column about this but for now I’ll leave you with… go get one.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace / Goldenrod. I’ve been talking about these two florals for weeks and guess what? They were everywhere near Fly Creek, NY. The hills were covered with a sea of yellow. The views reminded me of The Sound of Music, sans the glacial mountains. The Monarchs have not arrived upstate yet but the bees and bugs were enjoying the nectar. I showed my nephew how to identify Queen Anne’s Lace from Hemlock, even pulling one out to smell the carrot-like root.

Yard sales. If you drive the winding road westward to Cooperstown, you’ll find numerous antique and yard sales. In and around the town there were even more. I love thrifting so I was very excited. I got a vintage Irish Baileys Cream tin for my living room. I bought Barbie dolls. I’ve been collecting them to disfigure for my Halloween display – big win!  And lastly, I found containers for indoor planters, always need those. Matt was surprisingly understanding about stopping every 25 minutes for another rummage sale.


The fall. Maybe the most fun of all during the trip was just hanging out at camp cooking, walking trails, riding around on a child’s battery-operated four-wheeler and taking the kayak on creek. But there was an incident. My sister warned us several times that the area by the river was slippery. My other sister Maria fell the day before and her flip flop was swallowed by the mud. After being warned, I too took a spill! I was walking down to take a picture of my husband and the kids in the paddle boat when I fell down the mudslide. We were all laughing but then I realized I was missing my phone. A few moments of searching and I noticed something sparkling at the bottom of the creek. I plunged my arm in and retrieved my iPhone.


My husband hates my phone case. He says it’s to large and meant for teenagers (it’s gold and glittery). The kicker…  it was this blinged-out, ostentatious protective cover that saved my iPhone from river destruction, despite being submerged for at least one minute.  If you’re terrible with your phone and need a hardcore waterproof case, get the JAKPAK Case.

We’re hoping to go upstate again in the fall but for now I’ll saver the few weekends we have left of our beloved Rockaway summer.

Cooperstown NY


tagged in summer, vacation

Things To Do – Jamaica Bay

I often click “Interested” for Facebook events that pop up in my feed but I don’t often end up going. A few weeks back I saw an event at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge – The Controversial Legacy of Robert Moses. I’m intrigued by Robert Moses and I’ve been meaning to walk the trails at the refuge this summer but hadn’t yet. Sunday morning rolled around and the house was a mess, but instead of doing the pile of dishes in the sink and sweeping the never-ending accumulation of cat hair on the floor, I hopped in the car and went to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for the lecture.

And I’m so glad I did. The park rangers started with a presentation of the history of Jamaica Bay. It was Robert Moses’s vision to have a natural preserve in the unique wetlands around New York City, and in 1938 the land was placed under the NYC Parks jurisdiction. (After heated battles!) Moses defeated other proposals including one to create a large industrial port and a landfill within the area.

Whether you’re for or against Robert Moses’s reign, we do have him to thank for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge – our unique undeveloped wildlife sanctuary in the middle the metropolitan chaos of NYC.


I found one part of the talk particularly interesting. The rangers compared Robert Moses’s vision of what a park should be to our idea of what purpose a park should serve. Unlike our modern idea of public parks, Moses wanted this area to be strictly for wildlife, not for people. Only in 1953 could an individual access the area and to do so, you had to mail in for a permit.

On March 1, 1974, Jamaica  Bay became part of the Gateway Nation Urban Recreation Area which today includes sections of Breezy Point, Sandy Hook, NJ, and Staten Island.  These areas are a National Park and the first to be located in an urban area. Jamaica Bay is now a place to observe, enjoy and respect nature. It’s a unique environment for both wildlife preservation, urban recreation and education. Currently the wetlands hosts over 325 species of birds, 50 species of butterflies, and 100 species of finfish. Pretty remarkable!

Park Ranger speaking about the Bat structures built in the wildlife preserve JPG

After the talk on Robert Moses’s vision and build-out of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, we walked with the rangers through the park and were able to ask questions about the environment while enjoying the beautiful surroundings. It was a wonderful Sunday morning, a few hours of learning immersed within nature and the whole experience was free! To learn about other events at Jamaica Bay, our urban National Park visit nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit/thingstodojamaicabay or the facebook page.


tagged in events, nature