The other night, while enjoying a beer and burger (okay it was a gourmet burger) with an old school buddy of mine, we got talking about pine nuts. Yes. Pine Nuts. Now you may be wondering why two regular thirty something year old guys are talking about pine nuts and not topics related to the fairer sex - but when you love food the way we do...
And for the record, it is possible that we turned our attention to the said fairer sex if but for a moment or two.
Back to pine nuts - I figured that since we managed to conjure up a discussion on them, this would be a worthy post for my blog!
So, what are pine nuts? Pine nuts are harvested from inside the pine cones of certain varieties of pine trees. The technique for retrieving the nuts, unchanged over time, is simple but labor-intensive: the trees are either shaken or prodded by long, hooked poles in order to knock down their cones. The cones are then heated, softening their shells to allow the kernels to be removed and de-skinned. It is this labor intensive process that makes them so pricey. These tiny, pale, teardrop shaped nuts, are used in cooking and baking throughout Italy. In Tuscany, they are baked into pastries. In Umbria, they are roasted with meats. In Sicily, pine nuts are paired with all kinds of seafood. Then there's Genoa where pesto, that famous and fragrant fresh basil sauce, originated. Though basil is the dominant flavor, pounded as it is with olive oil, grated cheese, and garlic, it's the addition of pine nuts that gives pesto its subtle texture and richness.
So, thats pine nuts. Err..in a nutshell, so to speak.