Each week I chat with Matt Swaim of the Sonrise morning show, Sacred Heart Radio. Today the subject was pine nuts! Did you know these nuts have an ancient Biblical past? Here’s some timely information along with a favorite appetizer using, of course, pine nuts!
A beautiful passage from Hosea, the prophet, who lived in the 8th century BC in Israel. Hosea 14:8: “I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.” This passage is believed to refer to the pine nuts harvested from the tree.
The pine nut mentioned in the Bible is from a certain kind of evergreen found in the Middle East, especially Lebanon (the cedars of Lebanon). They are found in the layers of the pine cones of the stone pine tree. During harvest, the cones of the tree are shaken to remove the kernel, then the kernels are dried. After that they are processed to remove the kernel from the hard outer shell. Today pine nuts come from a number of species of pine trees.
In Bible days, they were eaten raw or cooked with other foods. Even the Roman soldiers ate them because they had strength giving qualities. The nuts were pounded them with garlic and salt. Then they poured in olive oil to make a tasty spread. Today it’s one of the few nuts that are usually eaten cooked or toasted, not raw.
What’s the nutritional value?
They’re small but mighty. Pine nuts have essential minerals, vitamins and heart healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids which help reduce cholesterol. They are a wonderful source of protein and fiber. They also contain vitamin D which helps our bones and teeth, along with vitamins A and C which help our eyes and immune system.
They’re easy to find but expensive. Now if you go into a Latin grocery store, they may be called pinon or pinyon pine nuts. In Europe they may be called pignoli nuts. When we were in New Mexico, we went into a café that carried all kinds of items made from pine nuts, even pine nut brittle with a bit of a bite from cayenne.
How do you store pine nuts?
If you don’t use them pretty fast, they are such an oily nut that they go rancid, so keep them in the freezer.
Can you toast them like other nuts?
You can, but be careful – they are so small they burn easily. I toast them in a 325 degree oven just until they are fragrant, a few minutes and turning golden. Stir from the outside edges in. Or just pour them into a dry skillet and toast over low or medium heat.
RITA’S GOAT CHEESE WITH SUN DRIED TOMATO TAPENADE
Serve with toasted slices of French bread, or crackers.
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes with herbs packed in olive oil, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 nice teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh, minced or more to taste – I usually add dmore
1 tablespoon or so of olive oil from sundried tomatoes
1 plum tomato, diced
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 log, 8 oz., goat cheese
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Mix sundried tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and olive oil together. Stir in diced tomato, and parsley. Make a slight “trench” in the top of the goat cheese. Pour mixture over whole log of goat cheese in trench and sprinkle with nuts.
Or smear a toasted baguette with goat cheese. Top with tapenade and garnish with basil if you like.