Summer White Truffle: Recipe Ideas for the Least Expensive Truffle
A steal at any price?
This summer at the village market in Provence where I vacation, I walked straight past a stand of tomatoes, red peppers and eggplant, oblivious to the little wooden trays bearing truffles half-hidden amongst the vegetables. My husband Bruno, however has a nose for such things and stopped for a closer look, or should I say sniff.
I turned in time to see him holding a whole truffle in one hand and holding his wallet in the other, and at the same time I spotted a torn piece of paper in the wooden tray with 360€ (over $400) scribbled on it.
For a moment, I thought he'd gone off his rocker. Not that the price was too high for a truffle--a single two pounder (about 1 kg) sold at auction for $330,000 in January--but the fact he would consider buying one at all! I rushed up to try to stop the madness before it was too late, then I saw the decimal. The price was not 360€, but 3.60€. A steal.
Bruno glared at me as if to say "don't you dare say how cheap it is in front of the vendor or she'll raise the price and you'll spoil it for everybody." I bit my tongue on that account, but I couldn't help asking "Isn't it early for truffles?"
Summer truffles versus winter truffles
"It's a white summer truffle" she explained. On the truffle hit parade, Italian white winter truffles are top of the pops. Then come French black winter truffles. Then come black summer truffles and last in line are white summer truffles.
Summer truffles don't keep as well as winter truffles, and the aroma is less pungent and therefore less sought after. When the caretaker of the vacation house brought us up a crate of his white peaches, he scoffed at our treasure, as if it wasn't worth bothering with.
"You should have just beat the wild boar to the one under your tree from the looks of it." He pointed to a gaping hole and freshly turned earth at the base of a tree outside the bedroom door. I finally understood what the noise had been about the night before.
Summer truffles may be less sought after, but that's fine by me. And by others too, apparently. Truffles can't be cultivated, or at least only with "iffy" results. With climate change and over-exploitation, they are also becoming harder to come by.
Moreover, truffles are an acquired taste. The delicate aroma of summer truffles is better suited to some palates. Black summer truffles are said to have a hint of chocolate, while I can vouch for the hint of garlic in white summer truffles.
In addition, they're less expensive, though our whole truffle for 3.60€ remains and absolutely exceptional deal.
Easy serving suggestions
Because their flavor is less delicate, you don't want to cook summer truffles or use olive oil, which will drown out the aroma. The best is usually to simply grate or shave them into a dish just before serving. Naturally you can replace summer truffles with winter truffles to a more pungent effect.
Always brush your truffle carefully to rid it of dirt and particles.
Brie with truffles.
- Brie cheese
Slice the brie cheese in half and grate truffles onto one half. Close the brie, wrap it, and store it in a cool, but not refrigerated place overnight. Serve with fresh bread and a simple salad.
- 2-3 eggs per person
- salt & pepper to taste
Prepare a simple omelette. Grate or shave truffle onto open omelette while still somewhat runny. Or simply whisk grated truffle into scrambled eggs.
- Parmesan cheese
- Dash truffle oil (optional)
Use only butter in pasta as olive oil will overwhelm the flavor. Grate and mix into pasta at the last minute. Serve with parmesan.
See What are Truffles? for more on these irresistible fungi that grow at the foot of trees and on you once you've tried them!
Creamy truffle polenta
- Truffle oil (optional)
Cook polenta according to instructions (there are all kinds of instant or long cooking polentas available). Grate in truffle before polenta sets.
- arborio or other short-grained rice
- white wine
- chicken or other stock
Cook shallots in butter over medium heat until transparent. Add arborio rice and stir until rice starts to become transparent. Add a dash of white wine and stir thoroughly. Add warmed stock, ladle by ladle, making sure the rice is just covered until cooked through. Stir in parmesan and serve with more parmesan on the side.
For rice risotto using white truffle butter, see video below.
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