25 August 2009


This is about pine nuts and whole milk and honey. It is about machinery and method. It is taste and consistency and scent and temperature all tied up with bonds too small for the eye to see but strong enough for the body to feel.

This is also about something just as visceral but more ethereal. The bringing back and the leaning forward, coinciding in some odd modernistic dance of the girl who travels far away, lovingly returns home and finds herself propelled and pulled and projected into some other realm where her emptiness might be satiated. She would even settle for another drop in the cavern that has occupied the place just above her stomach and below her chest since she can remember feeling anything; since she could imagine alternate worlds, so far removed from her own yet coinciding with what she knew, what she knows, what she wants to know.

Simultaneously wanting to leave and wanting to stay leaves only limbo to occupy. Bent back at an odd angle with a self-made and socially-perpetuated deadline to make oneself on the chest is the position that lasts too long and exhausts inspiration and beats freedom away with a howl, source unknown. There are day dreams and night dreams and wished-for scenarios yet no simple or obvious path for collecting experiences to create the concoction of last night’s reverie, yesterday’s fervor. Yet there is at any given time an arsenal made of spices, dairy and grain available to the patient, the creative or simply the willing. There is cooking. There is baking. There is ice cream making on a summer afternoon.

My suitcase is unruly. Unfailingly, each time I return from Europe it refuses to accommodate spatial needs. The hand woven, thick yarned, cream woolen sweater from San Gimignano? Rejected. The red wine from Verona? Drink it in Rome. The white leather vintage style Capri car shoes from Siena? Carry them on. My palate, however, is different. Instead of growing smaller by the excursion, it makes room for new tastes, new textures, new memories. Daily habits are flawlessly formed, recorded and deftly executed with a rigidity that only great self-control can sustain. Oh, there are many examples. But for now… gelato. Every night. Rotating gelaterias, varied combination of flavors, sometimes cone sometimes cup. But always, always, the pine nut.

I left Oregon despising peanut butter and I returned with a sudden craving for the nutty spread in a form sweeter and slightly modified. {I also left freshly graduated from college, and suddenly finished with technology, the speed and ease by which people can reach and be reached by a person, turning my nose up at those with iPhone or Blackberry in palm, and returned ravenous for the aforementioned device}. I wish to thank this gelato.

Solid, foundational and warm are perhaps unlikely adjectives used to describe gelato, yet pine nuts have a way of transforming something delightfully cold and refreshing into something akin to that sweater carefully smashed into the corner of my suitcase. Gelato seems to be among the favorite recommendations when it comes to what to eat in Italy and although virtually nothing edible can be recreated 3,000 miles away from the region in which it was first tasted and thus produced, there is always the wild possibility of creating something synonymous and dazzling, something of your region, translated.

It is sometimes enough for the moment to sit down with a dish of sweetness at once provoking a memory and casting a line to potential friends as yet unknown. When the physical can be a symbol of the intangible, when it can calm the highs and lows with a nod to the future and wink to the past and smile in the present.

Pine Nut Gelato
I combined a few different recipes and scoured cookbooks for the following method, roughly based upon this recipe from

Spread roughly 1 cup pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

While pine nuts toast, combine ½ cup honey and ¼ cup sugar in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the just-toasted nuts and process until a consistency of peanut butter is reached. Add 2 whole {fresh} eggs and process until combined.

Boil 2 ½ cups whole milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. With the food processor running, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg and nut mixture. The processor will be very full. Keep processing until the milk is incorporated into the nut mixture, about 20 seconds. The liquid should be smooth with a few small pieces of pine nut.

Pour the mixture back into the heavy saucepan and slowly reheat on low for about 10 minutes. Whisk constantly and do not boil. The mixture should thicken slightly. Pour the mixture into a large, clean bowl and cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, whisking until combined. {Alternatively, add 1 vanilla bean [optional] sliced lengthwise to the pan when bringing the milk to a boil. Before pouring milk into nut mixture, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into milk and discard bean. Omit vanilla extract}. Cover bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and freeze after churning.


Jane said...

This sounds heavenly! Also, I am really liking the direction you are going with the blog... can we expect more recipes to follow? I have completely romantic visions of a food blog!

V said...

Oh yes! And I definitely share that vision... I'm glad you liked it! Now I wonder if Seattle has decent gelato...

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