Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chestnut Pasta with Shaved Truffles: Brown and Down!

When I look at this photograph I took of my lunch in Arezzo, I see a "study in brown" -- it all looks brown! The chestnut flour pasta is, of course, a beautiful chestnut color, and the shaved white truffles on top are almost the same shade. (I've learned that white truffles aren't really "white" as in snow, vanilla ice cream or mashed potatoes, but are definitely a lighter shade than the also-delicious black truffle. . . which isn't really "black"! Hmmm-- the color theory of truffles: perhaps a topic for another day?)

Chestnut fettucini with shaved white truffles in Arezzo
Since I love shaved truffles over a simple pasta, and since I had never tried chestnut flour pasta before, this menu offering drew me in. The place was a little trattoria on a side street away from the monthly Arezzo antique market. My companions and I were getting quite hungry and were in a desperate search for something other than pizza when I spied the outdoor tables. What a find it turned out to be!

It was a relief to sit down after a morning of browsing the antiques and other offerings all over this charming town. The day could not have been more beautiful, so it was perfect for eating al fresco. When this bowl-full-of-brown was set before me, I breathed in the aroma: it smelled of Italy! Earthy, fresh, simple goodness. The pasta was perfectly al dente, giving my teeth a slight resistance. It didn't taste like chestnuts, but it did have a fuller flavor than regular wheat pasta, with a wonderful nuttiness. I'm not sure exactly what the sauce was, but it was that "barely-a-sauce" slight of hand the Italians do so well, especially when adding truffles. It tasted slightly buttery, perhaps with a tiny bit of young olive oil that had been introduced briefly to a bit of garlic. I couldn't see a sauce, yet my tongue knew it was there! Topped by the paper-thin bits of precious white truffle, that magical fungus that has a flavor and aroma that defies description -- subtle, earthy, REAL. 

While I was twirling it onto my fork the artist side of my brain was musing that it sure needed to have a bit of color on the plate or in the dish to make it look more appetizing (maybe a sprig of flat-leaf parsley? A slice of lemon? The splash of bright red from a sliver of roasted pepper?) But once the fork made it into my mouth, the gourmand portion of my brain took over, and it took all the grace I possessed not to wolf the entire bowl down in minutes. "I'm in Italy" I reminded myself. "Stretch this meal out and enjoy it!" 

Which is exactly what I did. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bacon & Eggs Pizza: Inspired or Absurd?

Bacon and Eggs Pizza from FuFluns in Cortona, Italy.
OK, it is time for me to get back to telling you about my amazing meals in Cortona this past spring. (Thank goodness I have photos to remind me what they were!) I'm still having a hard time incorporating blogging into my life. (And I used to be such a good  multi-tasker! That talent seems to have been affected by my autoimmune disease.)

FuFluns is one of  my favorite places to eat in Cortona -- it is just down the Via from the main piazza, and you can always depend on it for a good meal. I especially like their pizzas: thin, crispy, tasty crusts, with perfect combination of toppings.

I had been staring at this offering for a number of visits, over a number of years. As you probably know by now, I am a complete bacon FREAK, and I love my fried eggs, too! So it seemed as if this menu item was calling me. Why did I resist for so long? I think because it seemed to be an item aimed at Americans or Brits, and I usually want something very Italian when in Italy. But on this particular visit I was with a young friend, one of the students in the spring semester of UGA's program, and she encouraged me to try it. Since I had a small kitchen back in my apartment that I could heat the leftovers for breakfast the next day I went for it.

And I'm glad I did-- it was wonderfully tasty! Like the best of American food with the best of Italian pizza: the bacon was definitely American bacon, thin and crispy-chewy. While the pizza was still very hot I broke the shimmering yoke and spread it across the hot cheese, where it cooked itself into the hot Italian cheese.  It was like having bacon, eggs and cheese toast all in one bite (but the toast was the best toast ever made!) 

It was even better for breakfast the next morning; toasting it in my apartment's oven brought the crust back to its crunchy goodness, crisped up the limp bacon, and warmed the eggs and cheese into a gooey-chewy morning delight.

This is so good that I am surprised we don't see it offered more often here in the States. I think Waffle House should invest in a wood-fired pizza oven!