Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Fungal Savor of Old Europe

In Northern California in 2005 there's really nothing in the whole wide food world you can't get, and I love that. As much as I adored eating my way across the island of Singapore, I probably had nothing there that I couldn't have gotten (with much more effort) here.

The same goes for Europe, I think. But there are two items which I've been bringing back from Europe because they sell them there in large quantities of good quality at reasonable prices and they go for a zillion dollars a gram here: dried porcini mushrooms and truffle-flavored olive oil. I find the flavors of the two similar, and much richer than white, crimini, or portabello mushrooms. I have seen these things going here for about 100 times what they cost in Europe. At Andronico's the oil came in the sort of bottle you get liquor in on an airline for almost $20. In Italy it's in a liter bottle, just like regular olive oil, for just a couple of euros more.

What ever happened to arbitrage?

BUT: I finally found a reasonable local supply of the oil after searching a dozen grocery stores, and it was in Santa Cruz, believe it or not, not Berkeley: Mantova Grand Aroma "Truffle Delight", available at New Leaf markets. Trouble is, they seem to have two factories, or something: some bottles have a darker, greener oil which tastes nice and truffly, while others have a light golden oil which just tastes a little stale. The one portrayed in the photo is the bad kind! Now all I have to carry are the dried mushrooms, which are easier (and safer!) to schlep.

SALAD OF MACHE WITH TRUFFLE OIL AND SALT

Mache ("lambs lettuce")
Drizzle of truffle-flavored olive oil
Salt

Toss.

As someone supposedly once said to Alice Waters, "That's not cooking, that's shopping." I guess a little vinegar and freshly-ground pepper -- which I normally put on anything vaguely like a salad -- couldn't hurt, but try it without first. Then you can enjoy it with a nice wine without worrying about the vinegar (eating it out of big wooden bowls and thanking God for it, of course).

WARM POTATO SALAD WITH FRISEE AND BACON

I had a frisee and bacon salad in some restaurant which I loved; and I've always loved warm potato salad; and it turns out they're great mixed together and spiked with our Ingredient of the Day.

Small boiling potatoes
Frisee lettuce
Bacon
Scallions
Parsley
Truffle-flavored olive oil
White or white-wine vinegar
Salt, freshly ground black pepper

Fry bacon until very crisp, and crumble. Cut potatoes into halves or quarters (depending on size), keeping skin, and boil until tender but not falling apart*. Dice parsley and scallions (use both white and green parts, and cut very thin). Mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss potatoes, bacon, scallion and parsley with 1/2 the dressing and the frisee with the other half. Serve the potato mixture on a bed of the frisee (if you mix it all together, like I did, the potato starch rather unattractively coats the greens).

*The Mantova site above says their oil is "a superlative enhancement for mush potatoes", but if you make mush potatoes, throw them out and start over.

2 Comments:

At 7:06 AM, Anonymous the type of person who always had to make a comment in class said...

Jaques Pepin, when someone admired Alice Waters' food made with the best local ingredients, said "That is not cooking; that's shopping."

If you use waxy-type potatoes, like Red Bliss or Yukon Gold (that is shopping) and dice them raw and steam them, they might be less likely to startch up the salad.

 
At 7:07 AM, Anonymous the type of person who always had to make a comment in class said...

Jaques Pepin, when someone admired Alice Waters' food made with the best local ingredients, said "That is not cooking; that's shopping."

If you use waxy-type potatoes, like Red Bliss or Yukon Gold (that is shopping) and dice them raw and steam them, they might be less likely to startch up the salad.

 

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