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From Our Freshologists: In Praise of the Pine Nut

The first time I tasted pine nuts, I didn’t really know that’s what I was eating; we were in a tiny Italian restaurant, and the dish was very simple, linguine coated in a rich pesto sauce. Only days later, when I found a pesto recipe in a cookbook – this was years ago, before Google – did I realize that underneath the olive oil and Parmesan, that creamy, roasted, nutty taste in the pesto  came from pine nuts.

Since then, I’ve seen just how versatile these little kernels can be. In Italy, they’re called pignoli, and used not just in pesto but in biscotti, salads, and other kinds of pasta dishes. In New Mexico, they’re roasted and sold by the roadside, or made into a praline-like candy with piloncillo, a cone of brown sugar. I’ve seen them in baklava and couscous, tossed with asparagus or used to crust chicken tenders. I even like them as just a quick little treat, salty and buttery but not as heavy as other nuts. So of course I’m delighted that we sell them in bulk at FRESH; I can buy just a few to nibble on, or a bunch to try one of these desserts.

Lemon & Pine Nut Tarts

Makes 4 tarts or 1 9-inch pie

2/3 cup pine nuts
4 small tart or pastry shells
3/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° F. Prebake the pastry shells according to package instructions.

Plce pine nuts in a medium skillet and heat over medium-low heat; cook, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth over the heat, until toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer nuts to a plate to cool.

In a bowl, whisk together milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest and salt. In a second bowl, whisk together flour and 1/3 cup of the milk mixture. Add flour mixture to milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes just to a boil. Pour into tart shells and cover with pine nuts. Gently transfer to oven and bake just until filling puffs up, 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on rack to room temperature, chill until filling is set, about 3 hours. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

 

Italian Pine Nut Cookies

1 1/4 lb almonds, ground fine
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup flour
1 cup pine nuts, chopped
granulated sugar
1 small can sweetened milk, optional

Cream butter and sugar together until very soft. Then carefully blend in the ground almonds, salt, vanilla and flour. The dough will be rather firm. Cut off pieces about the size of prunes and roll them into little cigar-shaped pieces about 1/2-inch thick. Roll these in the chopped pine nuts and bend them into a half-moon shape. Place these 1-inch apart on greased baking pans. Bake at 350° F for 15 to 20 minutes. The crescents should not be browned. Cool about 5 minutes, then strew with a little granulated sugar or brush with heavily sweetened milk.

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Posted in: Bulk, Recipes