Since coming to Europe I’ve tried numerous times to meet up with CouchSurfers, but to no avail. Have you heard of CouchSurfing? Do you surf? Have you been needlessly emotionally tortured by CouchSurfers? I have!
In Madrid I’d made dinner plans with three different people – THREE – all of whom stood me up. Except they didn’t really stand me up, they got to the restaurant forty minutes after the time we’d agreed on, which was long after I’d given up waiting and left. A later attempt at meeting a CouchSurfer at the Prado in Madrid failed because she showed up 45 minutes late. Or so she said, though she could have easily spotted me and ran the opposite direction. After how many times being stood up do you have to take a good look at yourself and ask, how ugly am I?
So when I agreed to a CouchSurfing picnic meet-up here in Bologna, I was skeptical. Ten or so people had agreed to meet at the park behind my apartment, and if I ended up being stood up for an event I didn’t even coordinate then I was going to set myself on fire. Luckily, it ended up being the most successful (read: only) CouchSurfing event I’ve ever been to and we had 8 people show, including myself, which consisted of a few native Italians, a German, an American, a Brit and a Pole.
Among the food items were baguettes, proscuitto and cheese cubes, fresh in-season fruits and the obligatory wine and beer, because it’s not a picnic until livers are put to the test. I’d originally planned on making orecchiette with a black truffle tapenade, but then remembered this was a low-key picnic with strangers and not an outing in the Hamptons with the Real Housewives of New York. Unfortunately.
One of the Italians, an affable young guy named Stefano, had brought the first-pick-of-the-season figs to share and now I’m a man obsessed. Before the picnic, the only figs I’d ever eaten were the dreary dried figs, and whatever nonsense they put inside Fig Newtons; a flavor that depresses me more than an American Idol marathon. During a funeral. For kittens.
The insides of true figs are juicy, refreshing and have a consistency comparable to a spreadable jam rather than the fibrous texture I’m used to finding inside a fruit. I ended up wrapping the pulpy fig viscera in a thin veil of proscuitto, and all of a sudden life made sense. Philosophers, throw away your scholarly merits and hang your heads in shame, the meaning of life is figs.
After we finished the picnic 4.5 hours later, I walked through the park – an urban paradise of sorts — and strolled along the opaque green river that ran through it. I watched as dozens of turtles struggled to climb over one another, snapping at the swarms of minnows that crowded them, and I crossed the bridge where they congregated. On the opposite side was a sprawl of greenery and rolling hills that held sparsely placed houses, and all around me were well-coiffed antiestablishment hipsters holding jam sessions with bongos and out-of-tune guitars, as well as young couples canoodling in the shade.
I leave for France in a week, and I’m really, really going to miss this place.
Since I didn’t make this for the picnic, I guess I can share it with you instead!
For this dough, I used a basic combination of flour and water. You make it using the same technique shown here, just with water instead of egg. You will want to use 50 grams of water for every 100 grams of flour, or roughly 1/5 of a cup of water for every ¾ cup of flour. This may change depending upon the humidity outside and what type of flour you use – I prefer to use tipo 00.
For two servings I use 2 cups of flour and ½ cup of water. Once then dough is formed, you will want to take a piece and roll it into a worm and prepare it for shaping the orecchiette.
Here’s a very short and dramatic video on how to make the orecchiette. I…may or may not have gone overboard with the effects in iMovie. Oh well.
ORECCHIETTE with BLACK TRUFFLE TAPENADE
[print_this]Recipe: Orecchiette with Black Truffle Tapenade
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 4 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
For the pasta:
- 2 cups of flour (plus additional flour if needed)
- ½ cup of water
- For the black truffle tapenade:
- 1 cup pitted olives (preferably Kalamata or Spanish olives)
- 2 tsp capers
- 1 heaping tbps of shaved black truffle OR black truffle cream
- 5 tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3 basil leaves
- Salt to taste
For the pasta
- Place flour on a clean countertop and make a well in the center of the flour using your fingers and moving it in a circular motion moving all flour from the center of the well into the walls. Be sure that the walls of the well are even in width.
- Place water into the center of the well and scrape away bits of the flour wall and whisk into the water, taking equal amount from each side of the wall. Continue to incorporate more flour from the wall into the water until it is thick and no longer runny.
- Push remaining flour overtop the egg mixture and evenly spread throughout flour with your fork, mixing and scraping from the table as you work. Continue doing this until it is difficult to mix any further with the fork.
- Use your hands and begin lightly kneading the dough until smooth.
- Continue adding flour until the sfoglia is no longer sticky — but not to the point of being dry — and continue kneading, incorporating more flour until the sfoglia is firm, yet still elastic and moist. Once the dough is smooth and the flour is fully incorporated, you’re done.
- Lightly dust with flour and place the dough into a ziplock bag, removing all air.
- Set aside and let rest for 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.
- For the black truffle tapenade
- Rinse the olives and capers thoroughly as they’re typically stored in a brine which can impart a bitter and/or salty taste to the tapenade and may overpower the truffles. If the capers are extra strong, I will soak them in water for a few moments to dilute the brine.
- Combine all ingredients into a food processor and pulse for about two minutes or until it achieves a mostly smooth consistency.
- Toss with freshly cooked pasta and serve immediately.
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