Posted by: francescacoviello | November 23, 2010

Risotto & Truffles

It’s been raining a lot in Florence, and I am extremely thankful for finally owning a pair of bulky rubber boots. “Soup weather” is in full force these days, and venturing out during a torrential downpour for a warm meal is not my cup of tea. (Hiking up and down five flights of stairs to leave and come home with groceries isn’t either.) In a recent cooking class we broke down the 5 phases of Risotto, which was very encouraging since I FOUND arborio rice at a local supermarket! I am very pleased to announce that risotto is now a specialty of mine, and no long have to complain about the restaurants using RISO instead of (what we know as) – RISOTTO. The perfect comfort food after a wet, cloudy Florentine day.

  1. In a large sauce pan sauté butter and a whole chopped onion, until transparent.
  2. Toast the desired amount of Arborio Rice (2 1/2 cups is plenty).
  3. Pour in white wine, stir and smell for the alcohol to be evaporated.
  4. Ladle in broth (beef stock, can use chicken or veggie too) and stir until the rice absorbs the liquid.
  5. When the risotto is creamy and al dente, remove from heat and mix in a spoonful of butter and parmesan cheese.

A successful risotto is very simple, try using a porcini mushroom broth and add mushrooms, I usually make mine with mixed vegetables (zucchini or asparagus, with roasted red peppers). There are so many ways to experiment with risotto. In my class we made Osso Buco Milanese, which was served over saffron risotto – a traditional dish from Milan. This was my first time tasting veal shank and it was positively delizioso.

This past weekend there was a sudden break from umbrella’s and puddles, so my roommate Lauren and I made a spontaneous decision – and within 25 minutes we were on a train bound for San Miniato. Knowing that the next day’s forecast called for heavy rain (typical Sunday) we couldn’t resist taking an impulsive day trip in the name of TRUFFLES. During the last three weeks of November, San Miniato hosts a festival devoted to the gastronomically precious white truffle which is harvested in the area around the city. Located halfway in between Pisa and Florence, San Miniato produces around a quarter of Italy’s white truffles. Here the truffle is king, displayed in all its glory in the historical Piazza del Duomo. Other squares around the town also have their own markets, which are a tribute to the typical flavours of the Tuscan hill country around San Miniato.

While admiring all of the different vendors and truffle related goodies, I took pictures of the people, food and sights. Piro, a man who owns a business selling typical products of Sicily (pickled vegetables and fish) noticed me snapping pictures. He posed for a few, proudly holding what appeared to be a large dried fish filet, then handed me is card. In Italian he excitedly asked me to e-mail him the photographs, so I did.

Piro Gerlando

In San Miniato, we tasted the freshest olives, sweetest cannoli cream and the richest truffle oil imaginable. I purchased a wheel of pecorino cheese with truffles in it, an ideal hors d’oeuvre before Christmas dinner. Porcini and truffle spread is very common throughout Tuscany and very popular in Florence, so I had to get a jar of that to take home as well. When the sun went down I decided to treat myself to a sausage and truffle panino, washed down with a glass of Brunello di Montalcino – the perfect ending to a wonderful evening of discovering the little jewel of a city.

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