Friday, July 18, 2008

How Not to Cook Pine Nuts

What exactly is a pine nut, anyways? Is it a nut? Actually, I'm pretty sure it's in the seed family. I looked it up a while back and now I'm not sure.
Anyhow, while I am on the topic of things to put into salads, pine nuts came to mind. Of course, they HAVE to be toasted. Most nut and seed type things are a gazillion times better in salads if they are toasted. My favorite thing these days are toasted sunflower seeds. If I already mentioned this 10 times, I apologize, but I really, really enjoy them in my salads.
With my recent move, I acquired a toaster oven, which makes the seed/nut toasting thing a lot easier since you don't have to turn on the big oven to toast just a handful of something. Prior to my toaster oven ownership, I would sautee my sunflower seeds in a small fry pan with a little olive oil and that worked out great. Last week, I cooked up a summer medley of zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and fresh basil, and thought some toasted pine nuts would be a great addition with this when served over pasta. It was hot and I didn't want to turn even the toaster oven on, so utilized my pan/olive oil sauteeing method. The results were not good. I found it gave the pine nuts an unappealing flavor - bitter? too oily? I'm not sure how to describe it, but I wouldn't try it again. It may be because the pine nuts are oily to begin with, so adding the olive oil was too much. They also sat in a covered container overnight, so maybe they just soaked too much of it in. Whatever the reason, straightforward toasting is the way to go and adding a handful of these little guys can jazz up even the most basic of salads.

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