In the beginning, pesto turned me on to pine nuts.
Believe it or not, I'd never heard of pine nuts, didn't know what they look like, and didn't even know that they're not really nuts at all.
Every time I made a batch of pesto, I bought the smallest container of pine nuts I could find (turns out they're in the produce section of every market). I used the whole amount, a few ounces or so depending on how much basil came out of my herb garden, and I never gave pine nuts another thought until it was time to make pesto again.
In the spirit of The Perfect Pantry, where we learn more about the ingredients we have on hand with recipes (more than one recipe!) for how to use those ingredients, I decided it was time to do a bit more with pine nuts. And guess what? They're delicious in all sorts of savory and sweet dishes. And because they are seeds and not nuts, many people with nut allergies can enjoy recipes that contain pine nuts.
What are pine nuts?
The edible seeds of pine trees, specifically Mexican pinon (Pinus cembroides), the Colorado pinion (P. edulis), the Italian stone pine (P. pinea), and the Chinese nut pine (P. koraiensis).
How/where to store:
In the refrigerator for one month, or in the freezer for up to six months, to keep the natural oils in pine nuts from turning rancid.
More facts about pine nuts, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Pine nuts (Recipe: toasted piñon shortbread)
Zucchini with golden raisins, pine nuts and lemon
Adapted slightly from Good Tempered Food by Tamasin Day-Lewis, this side dish tastes delicious hot, room temperature, or cold, making it perfect for summer picnics and potlucks as well as roast chicken dinners in cooler weather. You'll enjoy the contrast of sweet raisins, crunchy pine nuts, and the tang of lemon. Serves 4; can be doubled.
3 medium zucchini
1 Tbsp olive oil
A handful of golden raisins
A handful of pine nuts
1 large clove garlic, minced
Juice of half a lemon, or more to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Slice the zucchini into 1/8-inch rounds (by hand or with a mandoline). Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan, and add the zucchini. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the zucchini are becoming slightly translucent and just starting to brown. Add the raisins and pine nuts, and the garlic. Stir, and let cook for 2-3 minutes. When the pine nuts are just starting to brown, add the lemon juice and season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to low, and cook 1 minute more, to allow the flavors to combine. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
Other recipes that use pine nuts:
Snow peas with pine nuts and mint, from Simply Recipes
Spice bulgur pilaf with pine nuts and currants, from Cookin' Canuck
Pine nut brittle, from Baking Obsession
Quinoa with caramelized onions and pine nuts, from Cara's Cravings
Baked white fish with pine nut, parmesan, and basil pesto crust, from Kalyn's Kitchen
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