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These gorgeous mushrooms add flavor, nutrition, and texture to a variety of meals -- including our risotto recipe!

Prized in Asia for centuries for its medicinal and culinary properties, the shiitake mushroom is now the second most widely produced mushroom in the world. The legendary health benefits of this dark brown, umbrella-shaped fungus stem from a concentration of lentinan, which may help prevent and treat cancer, lower cholesterol, and stimulate the immune system. However, much of the research backing these claims has been done with injectable forms of lentinan.

Still, this meaty mushroom is clearly good to eat -- it has eight amino acids as well as vitamins and minerals including B6, B2 (riboflavin), niacin, and selenium. One cup of cooked shiitake has only 81 calories, is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and is a good source of dietary fiber. It may also be good for your looks: Some beauty products now contain shiitake extracts.

Looking for more ways to add B2 to your diet? Try riboflavin-rich milk, eggs, enriched cereals and grains, ice cream,
liver, and green vegetables, such as broccoli.

Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

Makes 8 first-course or 4 main-course servings

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 onion, finely chopped

4–6 garlic cloves, minced

8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced

6 oz crimini, button, or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced

2 cups arborio rice

1¼ cups dry white wine

5 cups vegetable broth or
chicken stock

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh herbs for garnish

Heat 1 tbsp oil in heavy large skillet over -medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.

  1. Add all the mushrooms; sauté until brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Heat wine and broth in a 4-quart pot until simmering.
  3. In same skillet used to sauté onions, garlic, and mushrooms, add rice and 1 tbsp oil and toss to coat over medium heat. Ladle 1 cup of simmering broth into rice and stir until liquid is almost absorbed.
  4. Continue adding liquid and stirring until -mixture is creamy and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in cheese, onion/mushroom mixture, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Garnish with chopped herbs and Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Per each first-course serving: 312 calories, 9.4 g protein, 48 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat (2.4 g saturated fat), 9.4 mg cholesterol, 3.4 g fiber, 580 mg sodium (not including salt to taste). Calories from fat: 20%.

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