By Rebecca Altman, chief herbalist, mischief maker and curator of fine plant matter at Kings Road Apothecary.
Wild pine nuts and pine nut biscotti
Every winter when my clients ask me for help with their energy levels, I find myself repeating the same things: 'You're not meant to have boundless energy in the winter. Look at the earth around you: its tucking in on itself. Its not berating itself for feeling like it wants to sleep more, no, its doing what comes naturally, and gathering its energy for the coming spring.' And while this may be a difficult concept to understand in a modern world where we're meant to be 'on' all the time, the cycles of nature didn't get the memo that things had changed, and despite all attempts to prove otherwise, we are, very much, still connected to nature. Which means that in the winter, we're going to feel more tired, more drawn to rest and sleep.
And at this time of year, sometimes the best medicine of all is an obligation-free afternoon in which you can light some candles, put on some thick socks, curl up with a hot cup of rose and basil tea, and tune in with the quiet thrum of the slow pace of the earth. A good tree branch to hang out on, a good book to read, a good hearth to sit near, and a good biscuit to plunk into the middle of it all. Yes, readers, I, Healthy Living contributer, am giving you a biscotti recipe. My favourite one, to be exact. And while it might seem strange on the surface for a folk herbalist to be encouraging people to, say, eat more indulgent things, the food is just a by-product of my point, and my point is slowness. Slowness, nourishment, and savoring things a bit.
For this recipe, I used pine nuts that I'd gathered myself. I'm lucky to live in the Southwest where they grow abundantly. If you want to try your hand at using wild pine nuts*, you can order them here. You can also use pine nuts from the store, though they are expensive. Blanched, chopped almonds would also work.
*The act of shelling wild pine nuts could, if one were in an 'I GOTTA GET IT DONE ASAP' mood, be considered a pain in the back side. However this is winter (and I can take my own slow medicine), and so I put on an episode of River Cottage, grabbed a bowl, and got to work. If you have a lot to shell, I recommend inviting some friends over: these instincts run primal, which is what I think about every time a couple of girlfriends and I are shelling things around a bowl, sipping tea and chatting-- I can picture us doing this a thousand or even ten thousand years ago, and it makes me strangely happy to know that this is something people have been doing for millenia...
Gluten Free Pinyon Pine Nut Biscotti.
On flour mixes: if you don't care about eating gluten, just sub the flour mix with 1 cup regular flour, then half the baking powder to 1 teaspoon. You can use a pre-packaged GF blend or make your own with the quantities given.
1/2 cup cornmeal flour
1 cup gluten free flour mix (or 1/4 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, 1/4 cup sweet white rice flour, 1/4 tsp xanthan gum)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup wild pine nuts, roasted for 10 minutes and then shelled3/4 cup wild pine nuts, roasted for 10 minutes and then shelled
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350.
Beat the butter until its light and fluffy, then add the sugar, and beat another 30 seconds. Add the eggs, one at a time, then all the dry ingredients in two batches. Stir in the pine nuts and chocolate chips.
Shape into two log shapes on a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, until very light golden brown and still mostly soft.
Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes. Slice them half an inch thick. Separate them all, and bake, standing them up, for another 20 minutes or so, until they are a dark golden colour. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit (this is the perfect time to make a good cup of tea or coffee). They're best on the first day but will last for a few weeks in an airtight container.