Salt Lake City, Tranquility, And a Risotto with Truffles

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"On the road again..."

That winsome Willie Nelson tune just seems to pop out at me as my book tour unfolds. An invitation to appear at the Utah Humanities Festival found me in Salt Lake City this past weekend. After a long flight, the calm relaxing pace of that city and a landscape filled with mountains and sky provided a bit of tranquility.

And even though Salt Lake City is certainly not a hop, skip and jump from the east coast, it reminded me in some ways of home in the mountains of Abruzzo, surrounded by mountains on all sides, fresh spring water, fresh air. It was almost like I was there in my little town in Abruzzo but supersized with multi-lane highways instead of two-lane roads going through town, skyscrapers instead of old country villas and terracotta glazed buildings.

But no need to look too far for great food, I was scheduled to do another event (a book signing and recipe demo from the book) at Tony Caputo's Market and Deli. I call this place a little piece of Italy in the West. With an Italian market, a deli, a fish market, and restaurant, I didn't need to look any further.

The recipe was a risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms and truffles and Caputo's had all the perfect ingredients that are not always so easy to find — ingredients like carnaroli rice, frozen porcini mushrooms from Umbria and black truffles from Burgundy, butter from Parma, and olive oil from Tuscany. Authentic ingredients like this always make for an ultimate food experience.

P.S. Only use a pinch of truffles to top off this dish; truffles are wonderful only when used correctly, not over-used. And if you can't find a truffle, a drizzle of truffle-infused oil on a finished risotto will work as a substitute.

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Truffles (from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style)

4 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks chopped finely
1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine or Prosecco
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1-2 teaspoons grated truffle
2-4 tablespoons freshly shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Soak dried porcini mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat vegetable broth to a simmer. Heat the olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat and saute the leeks until they become transparent. Drain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid, and add them to the leeks; saute for a minute more.

Add the rice to the pan and stir until it's coated with oil and the grains have toasted lightly. Add in the white wine or Prosecco and stir till the liquid is all absorbed. Add the soaking liquid from the porcini mushrooms, stir, and then when liquid is absorbed, add in ¾ cup of the vegetable broth. Repeat this till rice is al dente (about 18 minutes). When finished, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Serve topped with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve with the wine you cooked the risotto with. If you're not sure, Est!Est!Est!, Falenghina, Pecorino, or a dry Prosecco all make great white wines for a risotto, both to cook with and to pair at dinner.

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Celebrity chef and award-winning author Maria Liberati is considered one of the foremost experts on Italian cuisine and culture in the United States. Winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for her best-selling recipe novel series The Basic Art of Italian Cooking and her blog. Maria divides her…

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