Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Mexico Pinon Nuts

First, a few links:

Prolific cookbook author and chile pepper expert Dave Dewitt has posted an excerpt from my Fiesta Vegan booklet on his blog at

On the site there are some additional recipes from my booklet including an avocado and corn tostada recipe.

HERE is an article on raw southwestern cuisine I did for Vegetarian Journal last year. I am really in love with the sunflower seed tacos with the jalapeno "cheese" sauce.

I've decided to join the Apartment Therapy Kitchn Cure this year in an effort to declutter; there are already 2000 participants signed up and it lasts 4 weeks. It isn't too late to sign up - the first assignment is to take a photo of your kitchen with all the cabinets open. You're not allowed to clean beforehand either. Yikes! I'll get that done tomorrow and post it here.

DH usually hikes 10-15 miles a week in the Sandia Mountains. This time of year he brings me back a lovely gift from his hikes.

This is the New Mexico pinon nut - the pinon (pronounced pin-yon) is our state tree and an important wild crop that can grow in very barren landscapes. The photo below shows a good-sized pinon tree in Embudito Canyon on the other side of the mountains from our house.

There are other pine nuts including the Italian pignolia and the Nevada pinon nut but around here they insist the New Mexico pinon is the most buttery and delicious of them all. (Wild foods expert Euell Gibbons supposedly said that the New Mexico pinon was the tastiest wild food of all.) In fall around the state you'll see cars and trucks all over the side of the roads while everyone picks pinons. If you have ever have purchased pine nuts, you know how expensive they are. At Whole Foods they are around $29 a pound.

The reason they are so expensive is because they are a real pain to process - you have to remove the pinons from the pine cones first. Then they need to be sifted carefully to remove rocks, pine needles, and parts of the pine cones. Then they can be rinsed well and salted if desired.

I roast them in the microwave but you can also use your oven. Be careful as they burn VERY easily. (If you do ever over-roast any pinons, you can shell and grind them in your coffee grinder and add to coffee or hot cocoa.) This batch took 1 1/2 minutes in a single layer on a plate on HIGH in the microwave.

Next is the fun part. (I'm lying!) The pinons need to be shelled. I put them between two kitchen towels and bash them to pieces with a rolling pin. I've seen articles that say you can remove the shell with your fingers but I've never been able to. Some people eat the pinons with the shell on and just spit out the shell but they need to be shelled to add to any recipe.

This process is so painstaking that you will soon be telling yourself that $29 a pound is an absolute bargain. I'm personally planning on sitting DH down in front of a play-off game and giving him the rest to shell.

The finished product. As you can see they also have a papery husk in addition to the shell.

As soon as DH finishes shelling the rest of these I'll post my recipe for Red Chile Pinon Flatbreads.


Andrea said...

Thanks for the explanation of the high cost. I never knew all that. I just discovered the tree outside our rental house is a chestnut tree, and I've been collecting big bowls of nuts.

Nanette said...

Ooh - I hope you can post some chestnut recipes Andrea as I'm always looking for some!

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