12 November 2012

Roasting Piñon Cones


Fresh Roasted Piñon Nuts.  Yes.  One of the signs that life is simply good.  And life is good simple.  Interesting to note that pine nuts have never struck me as a simple food. The cost alone steps them into the 'special occasion' category in most cases.  I made homemade pesto this summer with our abundant basil harvest and opted for using local almonds instead of pine nuts.  Made good sense. Significant savings, local, and delicious. Perfect. It didn't occur to me at that time fresh,local, and free could all be ticked with pine nuts.  I now know. Yes.  Life is simply good. And life is good simple.

One of our friends, an old timer who is sure to tell us exactly how we are doing everything wrong but is thrilled we are trying at all, gave us a couple of very green Piñon cones.  Toss them in the fire and smack them with a hammer after they open up.  Those were the instructions which were relayed to me by my husband from our friend. And be careful of the sap. It is sticky.  Knowing how some messages get passed along in our family and that said message was from a man who told me I pop popcorn incorrectly and should use my pressure cooker to do it right (yikes!) ... I went straight to google to find out a bit more about roasting fresh pinon cones.

I make awesome popcorn for the record.


There was quite a bit of information about roasting fresh nuts that had been harvested from open cones, but not too much about getting from green cone to roast nut.  What I did find, much like when I first started researching how to cure olives a couple years ago, was that everyone has their own method and each has merit.  None will suit what is available to you exactly - be it the equipment or the specific variety of ingredients / raw material - You do what you can with what you have, guided by the experience of those who have shared their own.  In that light I offer you my experience.

Wrapping in foil to cook in the oven or in the fire, over a charcoal grill in a grill pan, over an open fire in metal pot, straight in the fire.  All seem like fine routes to take when roasting a green piñon cone. While I researched I was leaning towards using the same pot that we roast castañas in over the fire. It seemed to me like a reasonable compromise for tossing it directly in the fire. What if my precious cone burst into flames?  But they were indeed very sticky and aromatic. Would the sap burn off so that future chestnut roasting was not pine scented or flavored? In the end, I opted for tossing it in the fire.  We had nice coals in the fireplace after a long rainy day. Those were after all the instructions we were given with the cones. So in the fire it was.


A little more than 2 hours, several hammer whacks and lots of picking apart, we have a modest bowl of pine nuts (in the shell - for which I need to acquire a gentler nut cracker for extraction than our household hammer if I hope to have more than nut splat.) and 2/3 of the remaining now open and empty pine cone.  I only did one just in case I ruined the first one. Luckily it turned out well so I have more to look forward to roasting.


And they are good.  So good.  So very very good.  Many thanks to our friend for sharing this gift and exciting new treat with us.  Tossing in the fire works. It takes a long time and it is worth it.

Time to go forage for more cones. They are going to be so good in my pesto next summer.

23 October 2012

Homesick Blues

This time of year is always hard to be an American expat.  True to the old adage "You don't know what you have until you don't have it anymore" - I did not have any idea how much of a hole it would create in my life to not be surrounded by all that goes along with this time of year.  I'd always rejected so much of it: the high fructose corn syrup sugar mania of Halloween, the revisionist history of Thanksgiving, the gross consumerism of Christmas.  I still reject those things.  But the energy, sentiment, tastes, smells, images, and rhythms are held deep within me.  We do our best to create our own expat version of what holds meaning for us. But in many ways  it reinforces the isolation and differentness of being a stranger in a strange land when our house is the only place where we can encounter so much of these.  We do our best to share traditions and celebrations with friends here by inviting them to join us for celebrations and meals, and without them carrying their own expectations we are free to do it up exactly as we see fit, often in quite unorthodox wasy. (Our first Thanksgiving comes to mind...while in the UK we celebrated "Thank God the Puritans Left Day" )    Yet it comes up short and I am left longing. 
I love our expat life and would not trade it for another, but sometimes there is no place like home. 

31 July 2012

On Patterns,Intent, and Finishing. Looking back at Looking Within.

Magic dust settles.  Patterns emerge and visions taken flight as they bend and briefly focus within scope’s site.  Just long enough to catch a speck in the eye.  Thinnest of threads spun in purest heart. Pulling, leading with a whisper.

Our feet hold steady. Firm.  Even as the earth shakes.

A few weeks ago we marked 7 years passed since the time we left the United States.  This coming week marks 2 years since we left England for Spain.  In those 7 years we have lived in 9 houses, counting the one we live in now. Now. Where we see staying. Where we are staying. Now. Gratefully we feel like we have found a home where we dream of spending many foreseeable years to come and dream of those not yet in focus. Gratitude also for the trials we faced on our path here.  I say that with the utmost of sincerity. Those trials brought us to question more deeply and trust more completely than we knew possible. Without them we would not have come to be here. In practical and spiritual terms of equal measure. If our feet were to stand on the same coordinates on a map, the earth beneath them would not be the same.

There are some themes emerging which I will be exploring. Which I am exploring.  Seeing and living from and in a place I have long heard calling. Looking back on life of a wanderer, gypsy, rambler, drifter.  Threads gathered,collected, shared, entwined with steps - entangled in life...have woven a cloth as strong as any made from uniform fibers or following set instructions.

And how does a dreamer anchor oneself but remain in motion enough to drag one’s sorry arse out of bed and get stuff done before it is too hot?  Really. How? I am really good when it comes to vision but have often fell short of doing. Doing to done.  I am a good starter.  I am less good at finishing.  

21 June 2012

Place of Magic Giving

I was talking today with a couple who, like us, has come to be in this pueblo in a valley near Granada quite by chance, and likewise who have found treasures around every corner.  These people are themselves one of the many gifts I have been given in recent days. An American couple here for the a several weeks this summer. Not just on holiday in a beautiful place, they are here on some sort of grant to do some writing. How wonderful for them!  If there is a place that I would describe as being inspiring,energizing, yet peaceful enough to actually get work done, it would be right here in this pueblo. I wish them all the very best and hope that the muses are generous while they are here.

I am really looking forward to getting to know them. Their being here is a perfectly timed gift for me, as I have been desiring closer social connections than what I am able to have over the internet or locally with Spanish speakers since I am decidedly less than fluent. That they are writers and both seem friendly and forward thinking, as well as in a similar demographic as we are is the special touch that turns a gift into a treasure.

Our paths crossed in the the pueblo as I was in for the weekly mercadillo today. We were talking about how this 'special touch' seems to be in no short supply around here.  It is as unexpected as it is true. This is a Place of Magic Giving.  How wonderful to be here to experience the joy that is giving and receiving so abundantly!