As summer slowly winds down and the onset of fall approaches, a new assortment of tasty and healthy vegetables comes into season. Because Japanese cuisine focuses on using fresh, in-season ingredients, you can expect to see many dishes containing shiitake mushrooms and eggplant in the month of September.
Shiitake mushrooms are of course available all-year-round, as is eggplant, and both can also be found in nearly any supermarket or grocery store. But their freshness and flavor during the month of September is noticeably more vibrant. Try purchasing either one at a local farmer’s market to really experience these vegetables at their in-season freshest.
Both shiitake mushrooms and eggplant can be used in a wide range of dishes. Add shiitake mushrooms to salads, soups, stir-fries, noodle dishes, and much more. Their rich, meaty flavor will compliment many other ingredients.
Although classified as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a giant berry and is native to Asian countries. Originally, there was also nothing sweet about these berries. They possessed an inherent bitter taste, but hybrids that were cultivated over the years produced sweeter versions. Sliced eggplant is good on the grill, while smaller pieces are ideal for stir-fries.
Tips for Choosing the Best Shiitake Mushrooms in Season
The best shiitakes should possess a dark brown cap that is nearly completely round, and curls under slightly around the edges. The ridges beneath the cap should be white, and appear tight and slightly moist. The stem should be short and thick. If the mushrooms look a bit dry, they might be lacking in flavor. You can also purchase dried shiitakes—the best ones should also feature thick brown caps with a bit of white around the ridge.
Shiitake mushrooms aren’t just a flavorful component—they are also very healthy. Some of the reasons to add shiitake mushrooms to your diet include the fact that they help aid in weight loss, improve the look and health of your skin and hair, and also provide a good boost to your immune system.
Shiitake and Chicken Sauté in Soy Sauce Lemon
This is a very simple recipe that produces a lot of flavor and umami. Chicken breast and shiitake mushrooms are stir-fried with sake, soy sauce, and lemon juice. It’s quick and easy to make, and healthy as well.
Tips for Choosing the Best Eggplant in Season
A supermarket might have a few different varieties of eggplant to choose from. However, they all share the same characteristics for choosing the best, freshest ones. Look for smooth skin without any wrinkles, spots, blemishes, or cuts. The eggplant should feel firm, and the flesh should spring back when touched. If the eggplant is too soft, it will likely be bitter. A dark cap also signifies freshness.
Eggplant is also very nutritious, featuring a wide range of important vitamins and minerals. A high amount of fiber also aids in digestion, and the many antioxidants present in eggplant also help to reduce the risk of various diseases and maladies, including cancer.
Nasu Dengaku (Miso-glazed Eggplant)
The flavors of fresh, in-season eggplant really shine in this recipe, and the seasoning comprised of miso, mirin and soy sauce bring the umami to new levels. It’s a unique way to cook eggplant that’s bound to become a favorite dish.