Thursday, August 26, 2010

Truffles!

It was so hot last night that I couldn’t bear the thought of turning the stove on; I just made a salad. After our history tour I stopped back in Piazza Erbe at the same fruit-and-vegetable stand—the one at the back of the piazza, which has the largest selection and best prices, and seems to draw fewer tourists than the one near the front. I picked up another head of lettuce (salad again!), tomatoes, eggplants (to be sliced and grilled for panini), cucumber, one enormous potato, some arugula, and a few lovely tart red plums. When I went to the side with the cash register to pay, I spotted some gorgeous figs, and…a little basket of fresh black truffles! I asked the price; €30 per 100 grams. I must have looked baffled while trying to mentally convert this figure to dollars and pounds, so the vendor offered to weigh one for me. A small, light one costs about €5. That’s a whole fresh black truffle—for about $6.50. No question it would be worth trying. At that price, I can even afford to buy another one if I ruin the dish! I’ve never cooked with truffles before because they’re just too expensive (at least where I’ve seen them for sale). I didn’t buy one today because I think I need to plan ahead a little. What should I do with it? There are so many possibilities…I could use it to garnish mushroom risotto, or to infuse gently scrambled eggs; I could stuff slivers of truffle under the skin of a chicken breast and pan-roast it (this is where an oven would come in handy). But I think it’s best to keep it very simple; something with a very mild flavor so the truffle is as prominent as it can be. I will probably just cook some fresh egg pasta and toss it with a little cream or butter and shaved truffle. (By the way, the butter in my fridge was made in Parma, from the same cows that produce the milk used for Parmiggiano-Reggiano, or so the label claims. This is serious butter.)

I’m not quite enough of a hedonist to eat fettucine ai tartufi all by myself, but fortunately, there are houseguests in my near future. (Very lucky houseguests, if I may say so!)