In which I vow never again to mock truffle-eaters

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Slender, tender and obviously fresh, asparagus and green beans (pardon moi, haricots verts) from Philbrick’s Fresh Market just before blanching.

March 18: Spring Salad with Lemon White Truffle Vinaigrette

I used this recipe, same vinaigrette but with fewer salad ingredients.

I had decided to use some of the white truffle oil we’ve had in the cabinet since Christmas, and it was the smell of the truffle oil as I began mixing and pouring that made me think I was not going to like this salad.

Truffle scent is pungent, strange, earthy, impossible to ignore. It’s almost a stink. It gets inside your head. It bothers you.

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The vinaigrette was just salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and one-quarter cup truffle oil. But was one-quarter cup too much? The kitchen was reeking with the smell of the gourmet fungus, which is the fruiting body of a subterranean ‘shroom.

This truffle oil was from Leroux Kitchen in Portsmouth. (Love that place.)

Most truffle oils are not made with actual truffles but are a synthetic product that combines a thioether (2,4-dithiapentane), one of numerous aromas or odorants found in truffles, with an olive oil or grapeseed oil base.

But not the white truffle oil from Leroux, apparently…

This perfect finishing oil is the result of steeping premium white truffles in a lovely extra virgin olive oil. Made in Italy by the third generation of a family of truffle oil producers, this elegant oil has the distinctive, intense flavor of white truffles.

Oils|Vinegars product tags

Italian white truffles are the most valuable. They are available only in autumn, but their flavor and aroma can be preserved in oil for use out of season.

Dogs and truffle hogs hunt for truffles. Hogs find them especially sexy…

The female pig’s natural truffle seeking, as well as her usual intent to eat the truffle, is due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted.

Hm.

John grilled the Alaskan wild salmon, I sliced some ciabatta bread and tossed the salad. It was just the blanched vegetables, a spring salad mix of baby lettuce, the white truffle vinaigrette, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top.

“This smells really strange. I’m not sure we’re going to like this,” I warned.

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But the potent oil was strangely delicious in combination with the robust flavor of the asparagus, the tang of parmesan, the sweet-sour lemon, and the sprinkling of crackly Maldon sea salt I added. Every bite made me hungry for more and immensely satisfied… at the same time.

Not just delicious, but weirdly intoxicating – like the aroma was going straight through my nose, deep into my skull, and hitting some primitive hunter-gatherer sensory and emotional part of my brain. I didn’t just smell and taste truffles, I felt them.

I get it,” I thought. “I get truffles. I will never mock truffle-eaters again.”

In fact, I will use up that truffle oil on other things (French fries?) and look for white truffles in season now, some day, and splurge to get that weird little Neanderthal hit again.

Whosoever says truffle, utters a grand word, which awakens erotic and gastronomic ideas…. – Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Since, during storms, flames leap from the humid vapors and dark clouds emit deafening noises, is it surprising the lightning, when it strikes the ground, gives rise to truffles, which do not resemble plants? – Plutarch

The most learned men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber, and after two thousand years of argument and discussion their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated, and have answered simply: eat us and praise the Lord. – Alexander Dumas