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Summer Truffles


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We were at Limogne market last Sunday buying our usual selection of vegetables, fruits, cheeses & so forth when I spotted an elderly lady with a very small stall. She isn't there normally so I went over to have a look at what she had.

Two things. A few Ceps. But she also had several small panniers of truffles! I couldn't believe it. Summer is not the time for truffles. Fall, yes and Limogne has a truffle market every Friday from October onwards. So I asked if they were truly truffles. Yes, she says they're white truffles. Now I'd never heard of white truffles (a la the famous ones from Alba) in our area.

I was thinking OK, that's interesting, but I can't afford them anyway when Linda picked one up & asked how much? The lady said 6 Euros (about $8.50) that's a pretty good price for a walnut sized truffle. Then the lady showed us here little slip of paper on the pannier. It was 6 Euros for the whole pannier!!! Here's a picture.

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Naturally we bought them. Once at home I got onto the net and found out that they're really what's called Summer truffles. Never heard of them before this, but then again my ignorance is showing as usual. According to what I've now read they 're milder than the winter black truffles. I tried shaving them as one would normally do. This worked, but they're drier than what I'm used to. I tried using my micro plane graters and that worked as well. Here are a few more pictures.

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It turned out that the coarse grater worked the best.

I made a simple scrambles egg dish putting the grated & slice truffle in at the last minute. Definitely truffle tasting. Not nearly as strong as winter truffles, but still the right taste. And the price was amazing.

Now, the question becomes how to use the rest of them? I'm looking for summer recipes and/or suggestions.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm with you - someone just brought me a jar of summer truffles from Italy (tuber aestivum vitt), in which there is also water and salt. I was told to rest a truffle in dry grains of rice overnight before I used them. But I haven't really used them before. I'll gladly take suggestions for use (I've had them before in beef Wellington and tournedos Rossini, but those are wintry dishes).

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I think the main point is their milder flavor vs. their winter brethren. For that reason, I would use them with a very simple/plain risotto (i.e. not a thick mushroom risotto) or perhaps shaved onto salads. With the risotto, you can try putting 1/3 in early, 1/3 in late and the last 1/3rd shaved on top. Or just shave it all on top at the end, which is what I would do with the salad as well.

Another guess is that you can use them lavishly since they are cheaper - thick cut, like you would a tomato, and tucked into some pastry, maybe sliced and cooked atop a steak?

Egg White omelettes would also come to mind.

Pastas perhaps? If you get a sense that it would blend well into a bechamel (truffle lasagna), or perhaps a mornay (truffle mac & cheese), or a large veal raviolo with butter and truffles.

Take pictures whichever way you go!

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Thanks for the suggestions! I dug around in my books and found a recipe by Marcella Hazan for a black truffle sauce for pasta, using exactly the kind of truffles I've got. It's done with grated truffles, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and an anchovy, and is tossed with thin spaghetti or spaghettini. I think I'll use this for my first foray. At least I'll have a sense then of how intense or mild they are and where I can go with them.

Edited by H. du Bois (log)
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Important truffle background for anyone be aware of, unless you've been dealing with truffles for a long time (at least 10-15 years) in which case you know this already:

Until a few years ago, the "truffle" of cooking literature and fame was normally Tuber melanosporum if black (from the Périgord and elsewhere) or T. magnatum [pico] if white (from Piedmont in Italy and elsewhere). These are the famous rare, expensive fungi, extremely aromatic and flavorful if good. Secondary or minor species have always existed in much larger quantity, and many are good to cook with, but they are not the famous ones and not equivalent in cooking. That's the key point: A recipe published before, say, 1995 (and many after) will normally assume the potent species I just mentioned. I have a few hundred examples going back to the 1800s which includes Marcella Hazan's "Spaghetti alla Nursina" in the US title More Classic Italian Cooking (Knopf, 1982, p. 140), opening unforgettably:

This dish should be reserved just for lovers. Some pleasures are too keen to be shared with a crowd. And in this case, too expensive. Hazan mentions black truffles available only in winter months, i.e., T. melanosporum.

Some years after that was written, amid rising prices for the famous black and white truffles, firms knowing the difference began shrewdly marketing minor species to US consumers who didn't. In some cases this meant outright fraud (labeling something "black truffle" that isn't T. melanosporum), otherwise just similar-looking names (the "summer" truffle, T. aestivum, which looks similar outside but different, paler and more translucent, inside, and is typically 20-40 times cheaper, and in my experience less flavorful and aromatic by similar factor.) Other minor species, including from China and the US, also are sold.

Minor species are fine at minor prices, and if you keep in mind clearly that you are not using the fungi that all the fuss was about, and if you experiment a little to get the best flavor from these milder but still interesting mushrooms. Over the years I've posted tutorials about truffle history, species, and cultivation. Couldn't locate on eG, but a 2005 example from another site is Here.

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MaxH, thank you for your help. I recently replaced my old Classic Italian Cook Book with Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Hazan refers to this recipe as coming from More Classic Italian Cooking, but leaves out both the name and the intro you quote, which would have been helpful. In Essentials, it's called simply "Black Truffle Sauce." Seeing as these summer truffles are black, I just assumed they'd fit the bill (at the beginning of Essentials, she refers to Italy as having black truffles, but it's the white truffles she then praises).

So, here's my deal - I've never cooked with truffles before, so I don't have any of the experience you do. I can't therefore tell what the dishes are supposed to taste like with the real deal in order to compare or measure these against. Are these worth using at all? Should I not bother with any recipe that calls for a truffle, given that these aren't what they refer to?

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...Hazan refers to this recipe as coming from More Classic Italian Cooking, but leaves out both the name and the intro you quote

What?! I haven't seen her newer titles (which include new ed. of her famous US books Classic... and More Classic ... combined -- books that popularized northen Italian cooking in US as Julia Child did for Guide-Culinaire French repertoire*). But part of the fun of her classics was the spirit and wit, as in that quip above. I suppose next I'll learn that the priceless iconic scene from Rouff's Passionate Epicure, where an ostentatious food snob learns a valuable lesson, is no longer quoted in her section on Bollito Misto ? Say it ain't so.

I've never cooked with truffles before ... I can't therefore tell what the dishes are supposed to taste like with the real deal in order to compare or measure these against.  Are these worth using at all?  Should I not bother with any recipe that calls for a truffle, given that these aren't what they refer to?

First a side point. Preserved "summer truffles" (in jars or cans) often come with some juice of the stronger, traditional black truffles to add flavor, or they might even have one of the synthetic truffle flavors that "truffle oil" uses (separate threads on eG and elsewhere after Daniel Patterson's 2007 NYT exposé) which would appear on US labeling as "flavoring." Historically, much of the US truffle use (and all out-of-season use everywhere, which means most of the year) was in preserved form, which means they were pressure-cooked and lost some flavor as canned foods do. But good classic black truffles gathered in peak season (early Winter) are so fragrant and powerful, even a little slice of canned truffle -- an amount widely affordable -- could enliven a meat dish, omelette, etc.

Now on your main and great question, the central question on this whole subject today, IMHO. Think of a continuum from mild mushrooms to the best fresh classic truffles. In the middle are some aromatic above-ground wild mushrooms that begin to show hints of the sharp, indescribable truffly scents (more widely familiar today than earlier, thanks to "truffle oil"). All of these vegetables are used exquisitely in similar ways: garnishing delicate meats, cooked into omelettes or scrambled eggs, with pasta, etc. I've done some of this with the milder truffle species and they were not bad (and you can always tart them up a little with "truffle oil" in moderation). So I'd try Marcella's pasta with ground black truffle and (good!) olive oil if that's appealing. No substitute for trial and error! As Julia Child once wrote, "Now you are really cooking." If you want to try more things, preserved summer trufs are not hard to find or expensive in the US today, at specialty food shops and even good supermarkets (the kind that have dried porcini in the aisles).

A favorite use I have for any trufs or wild mushrooms is an aromatic pasta casserole using piece pasta layered with sautéed ordinary fresh mushrooms, the truffles, shredded Gruyère cheese and Madeira sauce, the truffles previously heated through either in the sauté pan or in the hot sauce. More including origins, from 2004, Here -- note that the original foie gras is not needed for a good dish. Another fine way to show any flavorful shrooms is to slice, cook down in mixed Sherry and Madeira until almost dry, add a little heavy cream to make a thick binding sauce, salt to taste and serve on triangles of toast.

* Aside: If they make a movie out of a US home cook trying 500 of the Guide Culinaire recipes as adapted by Julia Child, what would they do if someone actually cooked 5012 recipes in the original text? ("Adam and Eve sold themselves for an apple. What would they have done for a truffled fowl?" -- J.-A. de Brillat-Savarin)

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But part of the fun of her classics was the spirit and wit, as in that quip above.  I suppose next I'll learn that the priceless iconic scene from Rouff's Passionate Epicure, where an ostentatious food snob learns a valuable lesson, is no longer quoted in her section on Bollito Misto ?  Say it ain't so.

Sadly, it's so. But she does make reference to it and tells you to go look it up. Thus is explained how she managed to fit the contents of two hardcover volumes of cookery into a third volume the very same size.

My summer truffles were purchased in Rome and are packed in a small glass jar with a little water and sea salt. I have no idea yet what they'll taste like, but I like all the ideas of simply experimenting with them.

I love wild mushrooms with Madeira, too - love to reconstitute the dried ones with that, and then mix the strained liquor into cream.

PS: That Brillat-Savarin quote is priceless!

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PS:  That Brillat-Savarin quote is priceless!

[brief interlude on Brillat's truffle quotation] I agree! I picked it up, forgot where, used it a few times in 1980s Internet food discussions and since, but couldn't locate it in two editions of Brillat's well-known Physiology of Taste (1825). When I googled for it today via key words, all the hits were from my own postings. I located it in Physiology of Taste though, thanks to the French-language dicocitations.com . It's a free, terse translation of

Premiers parents du genre humain, dont la gourmandise est historique, qui vous perdîtes pour une pomme, que n'auriez-vous pas fait pour une dinde aux truffes?

I got a request from a reader of this thread for advice on good sources of seasonal fresh truffles for home cooks. I posted that on the appropriate forum (Kitchen Consumer), Here.

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