The pine is a symbol of long life and good fortune in Japan, so it has been sad to see so many pine trees uprooted from Hurricane Sandy. But rather than see the trees go to waste, I have been stashing their pine needles away for our winter dishes. Their piney, cistrusy green sap is running now and the branches are highly aromatic.
Some ideas for your pine trees: Eastern white pine needles form the core flavors of a winter turbot dish on the menu at Daniel and can also be made at home into a citrusy greeny oil to baste on meats and fish. In addition to our Foraged Flavor recipes, Daniel Patterson at Coi in San Francisco showed me how to make an easy oil by blending in a vitamix the evergreen needles while adding light olive oil, then throwing in a sauce pan over high heat for 20 seconds and then straining out the needles for an emerald green flavorful oil…..wonderful for basting or dribbled on a plate. Last weekend Jonathan Gushue and Todd Collins in Toronto Langdon Hall made a mushroom tartlet with dried pine needle powder, while Sarah Villamere made a buttermilk pine syrup pannacotta.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the pines flavor is to toast or dry the pine needles until they become almost crumbly like little sesame sticks! The native American Indians used the needles in a tea that was high in vitamin A and C in the winter.