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FRESH and Festive: Talking Truffles

This weekend, we address one of the world’s most prized, most mysterious – and, yes, most expensive – foods: The truffle.

Our Truffles 101 workshop, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in our FRESH Taste Kitchen, will teach you the basics of handling the truffle, in all its forms: Fresh truffles, fragrant truffle oil, and, one of our personal favorites – the chocolate truffle!

The genuine truffle: Essentially a wild underground mushroom, true truffles come in both black and white varieties. The best come from small regions of Italy and France, though you can also find American-grown truffles. But they’re more than just a mushroom. Earthy, delicate, intensely flavored and extremely aromatic, they are considered one of the great delicacies of the world. They are usually used uncooked, shaved at the last minute over risotto, pasta, salad, meat or even scrambled eggs.

Yes, truffles are expensive. Some black truffles, such as those we carry in our produce department at FRESH, can be up to $250 a pound! (This is because they are so rare and hard to find. Truffle hunters traditionally employed pigs, and now often use dogs, to sniff them out.) But, you need just a tiny bit, far less than a pound, to make a huge impact on any dish. So don’t be intimidated. Pick up some serving hints at the workshop!

Truffle oil: Restaurant dishes billed as “truffled” often contain this secret ingredient – olive, grapeseed or some other oil, infused with the flavor and aroma of truffles. Technically, many truffle oils are not made from real truffles, but rather from ingredients that mimic the scent and taste of the real thing. Because of that, some chefs disparage truffle oils. (TV’s Gordon Ramsay recently scolded a Master Chef contestant for using it – even though Ramsay has published recipes using truffle oil in the past.)

We respectfully disagree with Chef Ramsay. Lots of other cooks and chefs have found truffle oil an easy, less-expensive way to bring the intense deliciousness of truffles to everyday dishes, like pasta, soup, risotto, fish or, famously, French fries. You don’t fry or sauté with truffle oil; it’s more of a finishing oil, meant to be drizzled over a dish just before serving. At our workshop, we’ll share new, yummy ideas for elevating dishes with some of the fantastic truffle oils we carry at FRESH  – and you can taste this secret ingredient for yourself!

Chocolate truffles: There’s no real reason to call chocolate truffles, truffles – except that maybe they’re so delicious that they can seem as rare and valuable as the real thing. A chocolate truffle is simply a decadent chocolate candy, traditionally made with a silky chocolate ganache center and a deeply flavored chocolate coating. Sometimes, creamy fillings, or those made with nuts, caramel, toffee or liqueurs, can substitute for, or supplement, the ganache.

Often, truffles are dusted with cocoa powder, and combined with the round-ish shape, that’s supposed to make them look somewhat like real truffles. Yeah, we think that’s a stretch, too. No matter. Chocolate truffles are elegant and delicious, but they’re really quite simple to make. Come by the workshop to learn truffle-making tricks and, of course, sample some freshly made candies.