My recent dinner at a local Mediterranean restaurant confirmed my passion for pine nuts. They served an amazing hummus garnished with a generous amount of toasted pine nuts, a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil. Delicious!
Pine nuts, also called pinon or pignoli nuts, are the edible seeds of varying species of pine trees that grow all over the world, including Asia, the U.S. and Europe. They have been eaten in Europe and Asia since Paleolithic times. These days, pine nuts are an essential ingredient in fresh pesto, and they are also often added to breads, desserts, meats, vegetable and fish dishes. They’re great in combination with, or as a substitute for, other nuts and seeds. They’re naturally mild, buttery and lightly sweet. Once toasted or roasted, they become a little crunchy and really flavorful.
If you enjoy nuts and seeds but haven’t given much time to the pine (nut), now’s a great opportunity to start. If you want to roast your own, simply spread them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven at 350°F for about 10 minutes. Or if you prefer, you can toast them stove-top style in a heavy dry skillet over medium-low heat until they release their fragrance and turn a beautiful, rich golden color. A dry cast iron or a stainless steel skillet works well too.
Well known in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, pine nuts are enjoyed worldwide in all sorts of creative ways. Here are some of my favorite ideas:
- Sprinkle over leafy green and other vegetable salads. I love and adore this Arugula Salad with Fennel and Pine Nuts. This Warm Winter Greens Salad is perfect this time of year.
- Garnish casseroles, lasagna, tacos, quiches and more. Here’s a lovely Spinach Quiche with Pine Nuts, and here’s a version of Mediterranean Quesadillas.
- Stir into hot or cold cereal.
- Garnish a fresh fruit salad or get real with this Buffalo Mozzarella with Balsamic Glazed Plumbs, Pine Nuts and Mint.
- Add to cooked grain dishes and grain salads such as Wild Rice with Sundried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts, Bulgur with Radishes, Spinach and Pine Nuts and Pine Nut Tabbouleh.
- Puree into pine nut butter and use as you would almond or peanut butter.
- Add to muffins, quick breads, scones, biscuits, rolls, cookies and cakes.
- Sauté or steam veggies; top with roasted pine nuts. Try this delicious Wilted Spinach with Lemon and Pine Nuts or this fabulous Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Feta and Pine Nuts.
- Garnish fish, meat and poultry. Here’s an idea for Grilled Swordfish Steaks with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts and here’s a colorful, Mediterranean-style Roasted Fish and Veggies with Quinoa and Pine Nuts. If you’re a pork lover, you can’t beat this Roasted Pork Loin Stuffed with Baby Spinach, Mushrooms and Pine Nuts.
- Add to pancakes, waffles and French toast. Our Baked French Toast with Pine Nuts and Apples makes a perfect fall-weather breakfast — sure to impress your holiday guests!
- Pasta pairs perfectly with pine nuts. Try this Greek Linguini made with olives, white beans and pine nuts. If you like mushrooms, you may want to try this Arame Mushroom Pasta Salad. It’s made with green onions, bell peppers, pine nuts and basil.
- And for Halloween cookies, be sure to use plenty of pine nuts when making scary faces on these Lemony Sugar Cookie Monsters!
Are pine nuts a personal favorite? Got a recipe or a great idea? Let me know.