Saturday, May 16, 2015


If you never thought of pine nuts beyond the ubiquitous pesto sauce, it’s time to take a fresh look at this little nut. In Spanish cooking it appears everywhere that this variety of pine tree grows, from the Marismas of the Guadalquivir (Sevilla) to the upland regions of Murcia and Valencia.

White gazpacho with pine nuts. Serve it with melon balls and crisp croutons.
Several Mediterranean stone pines tower over my terrace. As the weather warms, the pine cones on the trees open and drop the pine nuts onto the terrace. I’ve been collecting them in a bowl, waiting to get a sufficient quantity  to crack them and extract the tiny kernels to use in cooking.

But then, in one fell swoop, all the pine nuts disappeared! No chipmunk or squirrel at work here; I think my grandson snacked on the cache of pine nuts one afternoon!

Pine nuts.
I didn’t really fancy cracking them, anyway. So tiny, they are tedious to open without breaking the delicate little nuts.

Instead I bought pine nuts from the “nut lady” at the market, choosing the expensive Mediterranean pine nuts over the smaller and cheaper imported Chinese ones.

In traditional cooking, a handful of pine nuts goes into the stuffing mixture for chicken or turkey, into meatballs, added to lamb or rabbit stew, with a sauté of chard or cauliflower. They are used in sweets too.

Mashed to a paste, pine nuts flavour sauces, soups and gazpachos.

Chicken Breasts with Pine Nut Sauce
Pechuga de Pollo con Salsa de Piñones

Garlicky pine nut sauce goes with sauteed chicken.

This no-cook sauce starts out like pesto, by grinding together pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. But without the basil and cheese, it winds up tasting more like tahina (sesame) sauce. It’s wonderful on poultry, fish, vegetables, even pasta. While parsely is the traditional herb, use basil if you like.

Toasted pine nuts.
The pine nuts can be used straight, but toasting them first gives an extra  dimension of flavour.

This is such a quick and easy dish. The chicken breasts are marinated and sautéed, then served with the rich pine nut sauce. The sauce doesn’t need cooking, so serve it at room temperature. The chicken can be cooked in advance and served hot or cold.

Serves 6.

For the pine nut sauce

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
¾ cup pine nuts (about 5 ounces)
1 clove garlic 

½ cup water
 Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Place 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small skillet. Add the pine nuts and toast them, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned. Remove and let them cool.

In blender or food processor purée the pine nuts and garlic, adding some of the water, as needed. Beat in the oil, lemon juice and remaining water. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley immediately before serving. Serve at room temperature.

For the chicken breasts

3 boneless half-chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
Chopped parsley
Chopped thyme
½ cup white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil

Remove the tenders from the chicken breasts and save them for another use.  Place each of the breasts between plastic wrap and pound it to flatten slightly. Place the breasts in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the chopped parsley, thyme, wine and 1 tablespoons of the oil. Cover and marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes or, refrigerated, up to 12 hours.

Pat the chicken breasts dry. Reserve the marinade. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet until very hot. Add the chicken breasts and cook, without turning, until  browned, 3 minutes. Turn them and brown the other side, 3 minutes. Pour over the reserved marinade. Cook, covered, on a medium heat, turning once until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and pour over the cooking liquid.

Allow to set 5 minutes before slicing the breasts. Serve hot, room temperature or cold accompanied by the pine nut sauce.

Spoon pine nut sauce over chicken and vegetables.

White Gazpacho With Pine Nuts
Gazpacho Blanco con Piñones

A version of gazpacho, made with pine nuts.

Where pine trees grow, such as in the marismas, marshlands, of the Guadalquivir River basin, pine nuts might be used instead of almonds for white gazpacho. The eggs in this recipe give the gazpacho a silky texture.

Serves 4.

1 ½ cups packed bread crumbs (4 ounces)
¾ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups cold water
Melon balls or peeled and chopped pear or apple

Croutons of fried bread

Soak the bread crumbs in water to cover until softened. Grind the pine-nuts and garlic in a food processor. Squeeze out the bread and add to the pine-nuts with the eggs. Process until smooth.

With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. Then add the vinegar, salt and 1 cup of cold water. Pour the mixture into a bowl or pitcher and add 1 cup more of cold water.

Chill the gazpacho. Add melon balls or chopped pear or apple to each serving. Garnish with croutons of bread fried in olive oil.

More recipes with pine nuts:
Chard with Pine Nuts 
Pasta Pesto
Morcilla with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Pine cones, pine nuts.

No comments:

Post a Comment