There have been a few things that have changed after Kevin got back from Noma. I am hearing things like, “I think tomato is the best lactic fermented fruit” or “I wish I could add ant puree to this dish” or “I need to go up to Mt Lemmon today to forage for pine”. It has been interesting to watch his journey as he utilizes lessons from Noma and infuses it with Italian food. His palate has been subtly altered, acids and bitter notes are more readily used while sugar and salt have a slightly diminished presence. My favorite side effect of his time at Noma is the foraging though.
When you think of foraging you typically think of green, lush regions not the arid desert. That has not stopped Kevin, he has been combing the internet, talking to local farmers, and basically eating any weed in sight. With a wine dinner approaching, my love decided to feature pine oil, pine shoots, and pine dust on one of the courses. Pine has a distinct flavor and the oil has a vibrant emerald color that adds depth and beauty to a dish. Plus, it is extremely aromatic and enhances the overall sensory experience. The only catch with adding pine is that you first need pine, which isn’t plentiful in Tucson. This meant…road trip! Lucky for us, Mt Lemmon is an hour drive from the heart of Tucson. After climbing 9,000 feet you are enveloped in lush pines and the temperature drops an easy 20 degrees. It is our little oasis from the desert heat.
What I learned in this latest adventure, is the key to foraging for pine is knowing the types of pine. While most pine is edible some have certain toxins that are harmful to animals and therefore most likely harmful to humans. In Arizona we have one of those toxic pines, the ponderosa pine. The forest on Mt Lemmon also contains Southwestern white pine, alligator juniper, and silverleaf oak. We were on the hunt for Southwestern white pine. It didn’t take us long to have collected the shoots of the saplings, throw a few snow balls and travel back down the mountain. It was a lovely day and I don’t know if we had more fun or if our dog Capone did. Either way, we were a happy little family!
A small container of pine needles
Grapeseed Oil (or another neutral flavor)
Rinse your pine needles and pluck the individual needles from any “branch” you might have picked. Spread them needles on a baking sheet lined with paper towel and let dry out. Once dry (3-4 days), weigh your needles. Multiple that weight by 20%, that is how much oil you will need to add. Place the needles in a blender and while the blender is on, add the oil in a slow stream until well mixed. Pass the oil through a fine mesh strainer and place in an air tight container.
What do you use pine oil with?
My darling is serving it with roasted cauliflower steaks on Monday but it is also delicious with white fish and pork. You only need a little bit so don’t go and make a ton of oil or you will be adding it to everything!