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Tartufi (truffles) are considered by many to be a ‘mystery of nature’. Gaio Plinio Secondo known as Plinio il Vecchio, born in 79 AD wrote in Naturalis Historia- ‘that tartufi are born spontaneously and not from seeds and they live without roots’, according to Plinio the origin of tartufi remain always in an ‘aura of mystery’ and to this day that remians true..
According to botanists tartufi (truffles) are categorized as a ‘fungus’ that live under ground that is rich in water, minerals and near the roots of a tree. They live in symbiosis with the tree root.
Tartufi are rich in fiber ,a complete protein and easily digested.
Truffles have long been a part of the history of the gourmet table. It was said that Lord Byron kept a truffle on his desk, he believed that the perfume of the truffle ignited his creativity. Alexander Dumas (the writer of The Three Miusketeers) described tartufi as one ofthe most maginifient ingredients of the table.
You can find truffles in many regions of Italy-Abruzzo, Tuscany, Umbria and others. For this a national association known as the”Associazione Nazionale Citta di Tartufo” (National Association of Truffle Cities) has been formed to discover new ways of finding and growing this ‘mystical fungus’.
Truffles (tartufi) come in black and white. The white truffle is the more delicate and costly. Most gourmet stores carry truffles But if you canlt find fres htruffles, you can find them jarred in olive oil or truffle oil.
Truffles have a strong taste and a very little goes a long way. To experience the taste of truffles, drizzle (sparingly) some truffle oil on top of a plate of risotto or grate (sparingly) some fresh truffle on a plate of pasta or pizza. Not even a full teaspoon of grated truffle is needed to experience the flavor.
Since we live in a region where truffles are found- I always find presents of a tartufi or two left for me at home in the winter. Truffles have become my favorite present and I use them to flavor everything.
Here is a recipe we have been working on in The Basic Art of Italian Cooking kitchen here in Italy to experiecne the truffles in season now:
Risotto con Tartufo
*1 cup of rice (carnaroli or arborio)
*2 tblsps + 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
*4 large oysters-steamed
*1 white truffle
*3 tblsps parmigiano cheese grated
* 2 quarts Vegetable Broth
*1/2 cup dry white wine
Heat vegetable broth till boiling, lower heat and let simmer.
Cut scallions into small rounds. Place olive oil in saute pan and heat, place in scallions and saute till just about golden. Place in rice. Saute for 30 sedonds. Add in white wine, consistently stirring. When liquid is absorbed begin adding in broth approx 1/2 cup at a time and stirring till liquid is absorbed. Repeaat till rice is cooked till al dente (approx 18 minutes). Stir in parmigiano cheese and drizzle approx 2 tsps on top, stir risotto. Remove from heat.
Divide into 4 portions and place on 4 plates. On top of risotto, place an open steamed clam and on top of this place a few very thin slices of white truffle.
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