How can a dirt-dwelling collection of spores set you back more than your car payment? Here’s what makes truffle shavings cost up to $3,000 per pound
The divas of the food world, these oddly- shaped wild tubers grow only beneath certain trees—in superspecific weather and soil conditions— and can be harvested for just a few months in the fall. Unlike other kinds of produce, truffles can’t be grown in a greenhouse, and their flavor can’t be synthesized in even the most sophisticated lab.
THEY’RE UNDER GUARD
White truffle season in Piedmont, Italy, runs September to December. During this time, many a territorial trifulau (truffle hunter) hunts by cover of night, often with a Lagotto Romagnolo (aka the “Italian truffle dog”), protecting prime spots from rivals. Pigs, the traditional hunting animals, have a bad habit of eating their hauls.
After those dogs have picked up the scent trail, the human truffle hunters in Italy use zappini—long-bladed mini hoes—to coax the mushrooms from the dirt. Giving new meaning to the word “touchy,” these fungi can actually start to rot upon contact with homan skin.
Once a truffle leaves the ground, its flavor starts to erode. It is possible to freeze and jar them, but most aficionados aren’t crazy about the resulting compromises to flavor and aroma. They prefer paying more to have fresh finds shipped quickly.
From the September “Italian Issue” of Every Day with Rachael Ray
The latest “it” pizza—called the montanara—is hitting pizza joints across the country. Derived from a Neapolitan recipe, the pie stars soft, fluffy dough that’s briefly oil-fried before being topped with relatively minimal sauce and cheese and a few leaves of basil, then finished in the oven. The result is a crust that’s chewy, light, oh-so-slightly crunchy—and more or less impossible to resist.
From the September 2012 “Italian Issue” of Every Day with Rachael Ray
Move over, Chipotle! Mediterranean cuisine is on the rise, and it’s not just your Greek diner serving up the spanakopita. Fast-casual restaurants are expanding their businesses to offer kebabs, falafel and other classic Grecian dishes to a growing number of hungry foodies across the U.S.
Restaurants such as Zoes Kitchen, Little Greek Restaurant and Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill are not only looking to open additional storefronts, they are also educating consumers about the flavors and history of Grecian cuisine. Many accommodate less adventurous customers by including American food on their menus.
Greek food has become more mainstream thanks to celebrity chefs and TV stars sharing their Greek-heritage inspired recipes. Additionally, more and more Americans are lightening up their diets by turning to Mediterranean food as a healthy alternative to heavy meat dishes and fried foods.
Wanna go greek at home? Whip up our Greek Fit-for-the-Gods Salad with Spicy Cucumber Dressing and Pita Chips.
—Grace Elkus, Food Editorial Intern