23 August 2011

thank god for the pine tree

Christmas trees (well, in NZ anyway).  Timber.  Paper.  Keeping the planet's CO2 levels down and O2 levels up.  Dodgy pine cone decorations.  Resin.  Food for some types of moth.  Pesto.  Pines are wicked. 

Pasta was on the menu last night.  Not a particularly unusual thing for a Monday night, by any means, but by no means unbloggable.  Once we'd established that we wanted pasta, we moved onto step 2 - creamy, tomato-based, or oil/herb-based...  I vetoed creamy and decided on tomato.  Step 3, that's the fun part.  Scooting around the pantry and the supermarket and creating the dish inside your trolley.  We had some bits and pieces in the house - a red onion, some cashews, tomatoes, but that wasn't going to be quite enough.  I figured I'd head to the supy and grab some bacon, 'cause that's always a winner.  Happy days to be at Countdown, 'cause they had red capsicums and pinenuts on special, which almost never happens (well, for the pinenuts). 

Allow me to digress for a little, and wax lyrical about the (not-so)-humble pinenut.  Pine nuts are pretty much what the name suggests - the edible seeds of pine trees.  There are about 20 species of pine which produce nuts big enough for eating (thanks Wikipedia), though all pines have edible seeds (though you might need tweezers for some).  The most well known type is the pinus pinea, the Stone Pine, cultivated throughout Europe and famous for its use in italian cuisine, such as pesto.  In NZ the pinenuts we get tend to be the pinus koraiensis, from Korea - they're slightly fatter than their elongated continental brothers.  Next time you're looking to get some pine nuts, see where they come from, 'cause pine nuts pines seem to thrive on pretty much all continents.  I like it.  I'm seriously tempted to head back to Masons, a garden centre here in TA, and grab me a pinus pinea - there was one there when we picked up an avocado tree a few weeks back.  How cool would that be, harvesting your own pine nuts? 

Okay, I'll stop with my piney rant now, but if you've ever eaten homemade pesto before, or had lightly toasted pine nuts on their own, then you'll know where I'm coming from.  If you haven't, break out man.  Just one word of warning - pine nuts, once they start browning (and it takes a while before they do), boom! they brown quick. 

400 g turkey mince (it was there, had to try it!)
1 egg
dried herbs/spices
salt and pepper
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 red chilli, finely diced
1 tin tomatoes
basil (fresh or dry)
c. 1 cup cashew nuts
c. 1/2 cup pine nuts
parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Mix the turkey mince, egg, herbs/spices and salt/pepper and form into little balls.  It'll be very wet, but will hold their form.  Place into hot pan (oiled, if necessary) and brown on one side before carefully turning over.  Remove from pan and set aside.  They'll still be pink in the middle, that's fine. 
  2. In small pan toast pine nuts (no oil required) - they'll seem to do stuff all to begin with, but once their oil starts to come out they'll brown really fast, so be careful that they don't burn.  Set aside. 
  3. In meatball pan fry onion, garlic and chilli (don't worry about cleaning the pan) in a little oil.  Add tomatoes and nuts (we crushed half the cashews, so there weere different textures).  Simmer for a little while and cook spaghetti. 
  4. Add meatballs back to pan, carefully covering with sauce ('cause you don't want to break the balls up).  Leave them to simmer while the pasta cooks - this will allow the turkey to cook through. 
  5. Serve on spaghetti, with frehly grated parmesan on top.  Yum!! 
Nb: I forgot to add any salt, pepper, herbs or spices to the meatballs themselves, which meant we had a super tasty sauce, but the meatballs were pretty bland.  Next time I'll be adding some cumin seeds into them, along with the salt and pepper.  Whoops, dumb mistake. 

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