How do you express your love?
Sweet notes put in your children’s lunch?
Romantic weekends with your husband/wife/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend?
Maybe you wear a FREE HUGS T-shirt and you actually embrace everyone you meet.
Love is love, right? Yes, but great love is when you pull out all the stops and hold nothing back and give until the purse of your heart is empty.
Recently, I was witness to great love being expressed. It kind of blew me away that I was the center piece of the love exchange. It was an honor to help execute a plan of a marriage proposal and supply the very special meal to accompany this occasion.
My client pulled out all the stops! A private in-home dinner was arranged, the bride-to-be’s parents were flown in from France, and her best friend flown in from China… as a surprise! (The doorbell rings, the bride-to-be answers it and the 2 women dissolve into tears and hugs - that was the love gesture that really won me over. Take note, future man of my life; fly my best friend in to surprise me and I’ll be yours forever!) It was a very small intimate meal in a New York City apartment. Everyone gathered thought they were there to celebrate a Birthday. I created a menu based on the favorite tastes of the guests. Their host took great care in selecting each course and going over and over the details of the meal. The whole dinner centered around truffle risotto.
I don’t have a real taste for these aromatic fungi, but their value and culinary worth are not lost on me. Any cook would jump at the chance to shop for one of these little lumps, pack it away in a jar of arborio rice, and then delicately shave it into piles on top of risotto. This isn’t just any old ingredient, truffles are higly prized, hard to find, they have a short season and they are very VERY expensive. How expensive? $2, 630.83 per pound is the present going rate.
I enter the apartment and am greeted by the host and the first thing he asks, “How is the truffle?!” I show him the jar, unscrew the cap so he can smell it and he practically cries. He says, “Lisa, you have made me very happy. Watch their faces as you place the risotto in front of them. It will be a very special moment.” He was wrong, their faces changed the second I unscrewed the lid for the second time. It was like an electric current shot through all of them and they began buzzing with anticipation. The smell was intoxicating all the way from the island of the open kitchen to the dining room table. My assistant for the evening and I placed the dishes in front of them and then I went around for an extra truffle shaving flourish. They all sat there waving their hands over the bowls to bring the aroma closer to their noses. Their host paid for the silly thing, but it was like I was personally gifting them this culinary treasure. What fun!
After dinner, the host takes his lady to the rooftop terrace that had been romantically decorated with hundreds of candles, bouquets of balloons, champagne, and my fancy pancy gold dusted cheesecake truffles and he privately proposes. She said Yes. The dinner was an absolute success, the guests break into spontaneous dance, I am handsomely paid and I go on my merry way.
In the cab ride home, I just kept going over and over in my mind everyone’s reaction to the truffle. The host's choice to include that on the menu was a huge gesture of love. But here’s the thing, truffle or no truffle, she would have said Yes. His love would have been felt and received over a box of macaroni and cheese, I am sure.
We may not all have truffles at our disposal to shave over the risotto of our loved ones. We may not all have the resources to fly in friends and family to celebrate the special occasions of our life. We may not all have a personal chef to insure our extra important meals are delcious and made with care. But not having those things doesn’t diminish our love. Love is love, right?
A truffle is just a high priced smelly old mushroomy thing that grows near the roots of rare trees in France and Italy, but it packs a punch. I witnessed it first hand and the lesson of that night will stay with me for a long time. It was a lesson in great love. How can I ‘truffle’ the loved ones of my life? What gestures can I offer to demonstrate my love? Am I pulling out all the stops? Am I holding something back? It doesn’t matter how much money is in my purse. The purse of my heart is overflowing. And if I give from there then it’s truffles for everyone!
When I was taught to make risotto, I learned that it is a labor of love in the kitchen because it requires no less than 21 minutes of constant stirring to break down the starches in the rice and to fully incorporate the liquid. That may not seem like a great deal of time, but I dare you to pick up a wooden spoon, set the timer and stir. It is eternal. Your loved ones are worth it!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley leaves
5 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces white truffles***
In a 4quart saucepan, heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sweat for 3 minutes until onions are translucent. Add rice and lightly toast in oil for 2 minutes stirring frequently. Add wine, stirring until completely absorbed. Continue adding stock 1/3rd at a time stirring until each additional 1/3rd is absorbed. Once all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and stir in Parmesan, parsley, and butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide into 6 serving bowls and top with shaved truffles.
***if truffles are not in your budget or found in your region, by all means still make risotto! In the last minute of stirring in liquid, add one cup of sauteed mushrooms, or fennel, or asparagus, or your favorite vegetable.