What Are Truffles?

THE WORLD'S MOST EXPENSIVE FOOD

 

When I moved to France after high school to learn about the culinary world from the masters, I had never seen truffles in real life. I had heard amazing stories of the delightful flavor and smell of French truffles. I was working with chefs around Paris hosting pop up dinner parties.  A secretive and unpredictable supplier would lurk around the back door of the kitchen, dealing only in cash. There was something about him that struck me as nefarious. I assumed some sort of alternate business was taking place out of the kitchen. I was soon to experience the glorious flavor and covert business of the black truffle. The man I had suspected as being up to no good was in fact a truffle dealer. Truffles are so prized and hard to come by that their growing sites are kept top secret and the whole market operates in cash.

 

As I learned more about truffles of all kinds and began incorporating them in to my recipes, I discovered some of the factors that give them their luxury status.

 

Truffles are known as the diamonds of the culinary world. This nickname provides some insight into their worth and value. A truffle is a type of edible mushroom that is extremely rare. It is the rarity of truffles that makes them so unique and highly sought after. Truffles are known to be a delicacy and have a specific aroma and taste that sets them apart from other types of mushrooms. They are known for having a firm texture, but they are most often used in dishes where they are used as shaved toppings for added flavor. Adding truffle to any dish has the ability to make it gourmet.

 

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SOME ELEMENTS THAT MAKE TRUFFLES SO PRIZED INCLUDE:

 

WILD

People for generations, if not centuries, have tried to cultivate truffles. Farmers in the United States and Australia have attempted to recreate the conditions under which truffles thrive in Europe, but truffle cultivation rarely produces full truffles or large crops. Since truffle production cannot be scaled up and they remain rare, chefs and connoisseurs are willing to pay high prices.  

 

HIDDEN 

Adding to the mystery of truffles, they grow underground at the roots of trees. Nestled under the roots of trees, harvesting truffles requires first finding them beneath the soil and digging them up. Trained dogs are often used to help with harvesting truffles. Dogs, (historically truffle hunters used pigs, but the pigs didn't want to share their finds) have to be raised and trained to help in the search for truffles. Truffles favor the roots of certain trees, including oak, poplar, and hazel, and are sensitive to changes in the climate.

 

Truffle Hunting Dogs

 

VARIETY

There is more than one type of truffle. Most truffles are categorized based on their color, season and appearance, including black, white burgundy, summer and winter. Different types of truffles can range in color and taste and are found in different parts of the world. They are also at different price levels, with white truffles form Italy often topping the price index for world truffles. France is often known for having the best black truffles, rivaling white truffles in Italy. Most are known based on the location where they are harvested.

 

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Truffle Types. From http://therivermagazine.co.uk/

 

PAIRINGS

Truffles have a distinct aroma and a very noticeable taste, which is why they can be used in a variety of dishes. Truffles flavor starts to lessen after they are harvested, which also adds to the expense of this mushroom. Cooking actually dissipates the flavor of truffles. Truffles are often used to add a gourmet garnish to plain, hearty dishes like pasta and rice to ensure that the full taste is intact.

Air Fried Sweet Potato Fries

This easy-to-make recipe makes crispy, delicious sweet potato fries without the extra calories that come with deep frying!

INGREDIENTS

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees F
Chop the sweet potatoes into even sized pieces
Coat the pieces in 2 tbsp oil and place in the air fryer
Cook for 8 minutes, stir to prevent sticking, and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes
Remove from air fryer, add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Bon appetite!

 

Air Fried Chicken Tenders

Great grandma's time-tested recipe for crispy, perfectly browned fried chicken. The best part: because it is adapted for the air fryer, it is healthier than its deep fried cousin!

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs. imitation chicken breast halves

3 eggs, beaten (or cashew cream, see recipe below)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp garlic powder

¾ tsp paprika

½ tsp cayenne

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp chili powder

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cut chicken breasts into 1” wide strips
  • Pour flour onto a large plate
  • Mix breadcrumbs and seasonings together in a shallow bowl or on a second large plate
  • Coat pieces of chicken in flour, dip into eggs (or cashew cream), then dredge into crumb mixture
  • Heat up your air fryer to 375 degrees.
  • Place a row of strips on the frying basket. Spray with a light coat of cooking spray.
  • Cook sticks for 6 minutes. Open fryer to flip the strips with tongs. Continue cooking for 4-6 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve with honey mustard for dipping.

 

FOR CASHEW CREAM

Place 2 cups cashews in a bowl. Add cold water to cover. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse. Place in blender with enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Blend until smooth.

 

Air Fried Recipes: Onion Rings

Battered, breaded, and then fried to crispy perfection. What's best- because they are air fried, they are healthier than their deep fried counterparts!

air fried onion ring2 wheeler del torro
air fried onion ring1 wheeler del torro

 

INGREDIENTS

1 large onion, cut into rings
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup soy milk (or regular milk if non-vegan)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp paprika, blended

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Separate the onion slices into rings and set aside. 
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt.
  • Dip the onion slices into the flour mixture until coated; set aside. 
  • Whisk the egg and milk into the flour mixture using a fork. 
  • Dip the floured rings into the batter to coat, then place on a wire rack to drain until the batter stops dripping. 
  • Place the bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Place rings one at a time into the crumbs, and scoop the crumbs up over the ring to coat. Give it a hard tap as you remove it from the crumbs. The coating should cling very well. Repeat with remaining rings.
  • Place the rings side by side in the frying basket. Spray lightly with cooking oil, flip, coat with garlic powder and paprika blend. Place in the air fryer. 
  • Fry the rings for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip once during the cooking. Remove to paper towels to drain. Season with seasoning salt, and serve.
air fried onion rings4 wheeler del torro
air fried onion rings3 wheeler del torro

Air Fried Recipes: Mozzarella Sticks

This ooey, gooey mozzarella stick is sure to impress. The best part: because it is air fried, it's healthier than its fried cousin! The recipe is for vegan mozzarella sticks, but you can substitute regular mozzarella for the same effect.

wheeler del torro air fried mozzarella sticks
wheeler del torro vegan mozzarella sticks

INGREDIENTS

5 oz. vegan (or regular) mozzarella
1/4 c flour
1/4 c plus 1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 c water
1 tbsp cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 c breadcrumbs (I use panko)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a wide, shallow bowl, combine ingredients for wet mix, flour through garlic powder. The consistency should be like pancake batter, so adjust if needed.
  • In another wide, shallow bowl, stir together breadcrumbs and remaining spices.
  • Slice vegan cheese into ½” strips.
  • Lightly coat each stick with flour.
  • Dredge each stick in the wet mix, then toss in bread crumbs until fully coated.
  • Place sticks untouching in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze for 1+ hours.
  • Heat up your air fryer to 400 degrees.
  • Place a row of sticks on the frying basket. Spray with a light coat of cooking spray.
  • Cook sticks for 6 minutes. Open fryer to flip the sticks with tongs. Continue cooking for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Season with garlic salt and serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

Soul Food Pop Up In Portsmouth

Thanks to the Seacoast African American Cultural Center for inviting us to help them host a thoughtful and delicious fundraiser on Soul Food. Thanks also to Suzanne Laurent of the Seacoast Online, The Portsmouth Herald, and Katherine Bouzianis of The Port's Mouth for their glowing coverage of the event. You can find links to the coverage below.

Until next time, be well!

 

 

Soul Food with Chef Wheeler del Torro

   

(Katherine Bouzianis, The Port's Mouth)

SAACC Presents 'Best Food Ever Eaten'

 

(Suzanne Laurent, Seacoast Online)

 

Hot Dark Chocolate

Twenty five degree weather calls for hot chocolate made with dark chocolate, almond and coconut milk with whipped coconut cream. 

Whipped Coconut Cream

 

2 (13.5-ounce) cans unflavored, unsweetened full-fat coconut milk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 to 4 tablespoons coconut flour

 

Pour the coconut milk into a glass jar, cover, and chill for several hours, until the layer of cream has risen to the top and solidified. Chill a bowl and beaters of a hand mixer.

 

Drain off the clear liquid and transfer the cream to the chilled bowl. Beat the cream until thick and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then gradually beat in the powdered sugar and coconut flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, monitoring the flavor and consistency to suit your taste.

 

Transfer the coconut cream to a storage container, cover, and chill for 2 hours until the mixture firms. Serve chilled.

This recipe appears in my Filet of Soul: AfroVegan cookbook. 

Fall Cocktails

Rosemary Sangria
Rosemary Sangria

Cranberry & Rosemary Sangria with Blueberry Garnish

For fall entertaining, substitute white wine for red in your favorite sangria recipe and a dash of cranberry juice. Try a sprig of rosemary and a decorative toothpick with blueberries as garnishes. For the fruit, add you favorites or try apples with fresh cranberries.