Adventures in Truffleland
How fortunate are we to have forest mycologists for next-door neighbors who are among the premier truffle experts in the state. I leaped at the opportunity when they invited me to hitch a ride with them to the Oregon Truffle Festival in Eugene today. It’s a hoighty-toighty gourmet event, but luckily today anyone could attend the marketplace event for $15. It was well-spent
That admission price included indulgent samples of truffled dishes and truffle-accented cheeses and olive oils. And this budding food writer absorbed numerous story ideas from panel discussions and other conversations there. Truffles could become a tobacco-like cash crop salvation for struggling small farms, the writer Kevin West said in a talk. Unfortunately most of us can’t afford to cook with truffles, as they go for $100 to $1,000 a pound. Hence the reason so many amateurs here try to forage for them themselves. I saw a festivalgoer today bartering some Oregon white truffles for wine and first-press olive oils, as if the truffles were gold.
The festival hall was redolent with the heady, pungent perfume of the truffles. The rare Oregon Brown Truffle (see above) had an especially potent, Roquefort-like aroma. Only the relatively more common white and black truffle varieties were featured in the food we sampled.
The chefs from Caprial’s Bistro in Portland whipped up a truffled fennel-potato soup and a simple roasted carrot salad. (See recipes below).
A cloyingly rich marsala pasta with white truffles and flecks of foie gras followed from Newman’s at 988 in Cannon Beach. And Vitaly and Kimberly Paley of Paley’s Place in Portland were on-hand to sign their new cookbook.
Truffles are a gift of nature that fruit in the earth in all regions of the world. Desert truffles, I learned today, are abundant in the Kalahari region of sub-Saharan Africa, in Austrailia and in the Middle East. In fact, there’s evidence that shows the “manna from Heaven” that fed the Israelites was likely morsels of desert truffle. How cool.
Roasted Carrot Salad with Sherry Dressing and Goat Cheese and White Truffles (have you noticed sherry vinegar is all the rage? I just got some for the first time.)
4 large carrots, peeled and large dice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper
2 bunches watercress, washed and spun dry
2 ounces soft goat cheese
thinly sliced white truffle
Preheat oven 425 degrees convection bake setting. Place a heavy gauge sheet pan in the oven to pre-heat for about 10 minutes. Toss the carrots with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on the hot sheet pan in a single layer. Cook until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
While the carrots are cooking, prepare the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, garlic and mustard together. While whisking slowly add the oil and whisk til incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve the salad, divide the watercress onto 4 plates. Top with the warm carrots and drizzle with the dressing. Top the salad with goat cheese and sliced truffle and serve.
Courtesy of Caprial and John Pence of Caprial’s Bistro