Friday, October 26, 2007

Pili Nut Pesto

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I have had a 2-kilo load of plain pili nuts just chilling in my fridge ever since my trip down to Bicol a while back. Though peacefully waiting in their bag, I knew I had to get started with them soon. I have been dreaming up of all sorts of ways to use them, running the gamut from sweet to savory. You see, all my life I have only had pili nuts one way – candied, as is it most often sold. Until my dad clued me in on raw pili, it never entered my head to look for them in any other way.

As I mentioned when C brought me back some candied pili nuts from a business trip to Naga city:

Pili nuts are native to the Philippines, and although they are grown as ornamental trees in other tropical countries like Malaysia, only in the Philippines are they produced and processed commercially. All this production take place mainly in the Bicol region, making pili products one of Bicol’s most popular sweets.”

The fruit of this tropical tree is harvested from areas in this region where they grow naturally. So far, there is no commercial farming of the pili trees (that I know of). So it all depends on nature’s bounty. Candied, they are delicious and addictive. Raw, they are lusciously nutty and heavy with oil. Either way, they are fantastic. They are high in calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, and rich in fats and protein. I have also seen pili nut oil on the market here but have yet to try it.

For my first foray into my pili nut stockpile I decided to make pesto. This is actually what my dad uses the pili for and was the reason he asked me to bring him back some when I was in Bicol (and subsequently bought some for myself as well). He simply substitutes the pine nuts (which are imported here and not that cheap) in a regular pesto recipe with pili nuts. Nutritious, tasty, and economical – seems like I can still learn from dad even in my old age ;)

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Pili Nut Pesto
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic (depends on your taste, start with one clove…you can always add more later)
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole pili nuts (you may blanch and peel them first)
  • 1/3 – 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

- Place all ingredients, except for the oil, in a food processor. Process while slowly adding the oil in…start with 1/3 cup, then keep adding if you want it thinner.
- Place pesto in a clean jar and top with a layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge. Makes about 1 cup of pesto.

The earthy taste of the pili comes through just enough in this preparation, and the nut’s natural oiliness is perfect for pesto. I just used a basic basil pesto recipe to get this but I plan on experimenting with other locally grown herbs as well.

I was too lazy to peel away the thin brown inner skin (as evidenced by the brown flecks you see in the pesto) but please feel free to do so. Although the skin is edible, and in my opinion makes the pesto taste “nuttier”, it is a lot of “roughage”, and who knows how that’ll interact with your digestive system right? My dad does peel his by blanching it quickly in boiling water then, when cooled down a bit, pressing the nut between his thumb and forefinger. According to him the nut will shoot right out of its skin with impressive speed and force…like a rocket. He goes on to say that it would make a super fun game to play…some kind of crazy battle of the pili-rockets? He insists that I try it, not for anything to do with the pesto’s flavor, but because, really, pili-rockets…how could I not want to try it? Ok, dad, next time…I’ll put on my pili-fighting-gear and you better get ready to defend yourself!

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This is my entry to this round of Weekend Herb Blogging (I hope nuts count!), a fabulous event created by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. WHB just celebrated its 2nd year anniversary very recently! This round is hosted by one of my favorite food bloggers, mushroom foragers, and apple cake queen…Pille of Nami-Nami! :)

39 comments:

Kalyn said...

I haven't heard of this type of nut, very interesting. Of course nuts are fine, anything that grows on a plant is great! Very nice photo of the nuts too!

zena said...

When I get a batch of pili, a use it in my date and nut bars. Replace the dates with candied kamias and you got a local food for the gods version.

maybahay said...

hmm,very creative. this looks great. i wish i had access to pili here in sydney.

Marvin said...

Wow, excellent use of the pili nut. Very creative!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Kalyn! "Anything that grows on a plant"...I love that! :)

Hi Zena! That sounds phenomenal! Where do you get candied kamias? :)

Hi Maybahay! Maybe you can find the candied ones...don't know about the fresh. Because of their high oil/fat content, it is hard to ship as it can get rancid quickly...

Hi Marvin! Thanks :) Well, it's thanks to my dad's bright ideas, hehe :)

Hillary said...

I've been meaning to make my own pesto sauce as well as my own tomato sauce but I just keep putting it off. This pesto looks great!

veron said...

I've forgotten about pili-nuts. Thanks for reminding me about this and wow with the pesto!

katrina said...

Your dad's funny, I see where you get your sense of humor from, Joey! :-) I just love pili, and I think we should all think of more and more uses for it.

Does the pesto taste distinctly different from the usual pine nut version? Okay, now you've done the savory pili recipe...time for something sweet! ;-)

valentinA said...

Never heard about pili nuts but it sure looks great with your pesto.. Oh geez, my mouth's watering now!

Nabeela said...

I have never heard of this nut but the combination sounds like it would work perfectly :)

Jen Tan said...

Yummmmmmm!!!! =)I love pili!

Kelly-Jane said...

I hadn't heard about this nut either, before you told us =) Great idea to try them in a pesto!

mtan said...

Cool! Great idea to sub the pine nut for our own pili nut. Imagine if you use ilokano garlic, and pili oil, and add malunggay to the pesto for a super pinoy pesto :D
yumyum

christine said...
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christine said...

Haha pili-rocket, your dad's really such a character. :) Pili nut pesto sounds awesome and it's such a great way to use pili! I'd love to try that when I get my hands on another stash of pili.

I still can't get over this latest coincidence, knowing we both had the pili for a while and yet blogging about it on the same weekend, even the same day I think? Like you said, 'birds of the same feather, blog together!' heehee, i love that.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Pili nuts are totally unknown to me... I love nuts and your pesto would surely be successful at my table!

Cheers,

Rosa

Belinda said...

Joey, I've not heard of pili nuts before, and needless to say, here in Georgia, I probably won't encounter them, but how interesting to learn about something completely new to me...you blogging girls are always broadening my cooking and baking horizons. :-)

Pille said...

Totally new nuts to me, too. The pesto sounds delicious, however - thank you for participating at this week's WHB, Joey!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Hillary! Thanks :) Pesto is really easy to make and can be used for so many thing...this aside from the fact that it's really yummy! Heehee :) Thanks for the link to Molly's tomato sauce...sounds fantastic!

Hi Veron! Aren't the good? :) Love them!

Hi Katrina! Yep...he is a hoot! Always a lot of fun to hang with him :) I agree...we should definitely be exploring the pili more...when I was in Bicol they were saying how there were all these new studies about its health benefits! Plus it's delicious :) The pili does give the pesto its own flavor, although not as distinct as I first thought it would be...what helps is doing what my dad does -- adding chunkier bits of pili to the pesto (it also gives it great body and texture!) :)

Hi Valentina! I don't think the pili ventures very far from its home soil :)

Hi Nabeela! Since the pili has a lot of oil it really works well this way :)

Hehe! Me too Jen :)

Hi Kelly-jane! I like experimenting with different nuts (and greens!) in pesto...a great way to use leftover nuts (and greens!) too :)

Hi M! Great idea! I was just thinking of malunggay today (as I was eating monggo) :)

Hi Nens! I can't believe it either! Such a great coincidence don't you think? :) Birds of the same feather indeed! And so cute the our dad's both figured in the posts! :)

Hi Rosa! They are really delicious and I'm sure you would love them too :)

Hi Belinda! Likewise, likewise :) I learn so much from food bloggers...and I love that everyone is so different, working in totally different environments, but can still connect over this shared passion :)

Hi Pille! Glad I could introduce you to at least one new nut :) Small price to pay for all the new mushrooms and wild herbs and berries that you have introduced me to!

docchef said...

i lvoe smahing pili shells with a hammer when i was kid

sra said...

Hi, my first time here. It's the first time I'm hearing about this nut. Reminds me of pistachios just out of their shell but not skinned.
I liked what you said about the less than stellar attempts in your pancit bato as well!

aria said...

ooooh i have yet to meet the exotic pili nut but am looking forward to it now! that pesto looks delicious, the pic is beautiful :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Docchef! I have yet to try that :)

Hi Sra! Thanks so much for dropping by :) When these guys are skinned they are the color of a skinned almond :)

Hi Aria! Hope you come across it someday! :)

zlamushka said...

I have never heard of this nut case :-) Interesting. Hope you are participating my Spoonful of Christmas event, I have extended the deadline for another month, so whenever you re in a Christmasy mood...

toni said...

Oh wow! Pili nuts are yummy! I never thought that they would be great in pesto. Great recipe Joey! And great back story too. :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Zlamushka! Will check it out :)

Hi Toni! They work really well with the pesto I find :) And yes, they are definitely yummy! :)

SteamyKitchen said...

I have never tried Pili before! Will have to search next time I'm at the market.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jaden! Hope you can find some!

Gay Carrillo said...

I've been planning to make my own pesto for quite some time. Pine nuts are very expensive here in the Philippines. Thanks.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Gay! Pili nuts make a great substitute in my book :) Go ahead and try it! Pesto is really easy to make and can be used in a variety of ways...Enjoy your pesto-making! :)

mycooking said...

I really like this shot that you took!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mycookinghut! Thanks :)

the nayna said...

i came across some pili nuts while shopping around our friendly neighborhood baking store, near the wet market in BF p'que. I think I finished a quarter of the nuts by plain munching---they were so, so good! the rest went to salads and the random bread or muffin. the next time i get hold of some, i'll make sure to try them as a stand-in for pine nuts! yay :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Nayna! Aren't they great? :) I think they can be very versatile...plus they are supposed to be very nutritious. And they work so well as a substitute for pinenuts in pesto...not to mention they are cheaper :)

mENG said...

hi...where can i easily find this Pili Nut in Philipiines? how about in Cebu, can they be found in SM? Do they sell fresh one too?

email to me: gnem70@yahoo.com

thanks for the big helps

ChichaJo said...

Hi Meng! Sorry for the late response! I bought this in Bicol...I haven't see fresh pili in Manila yet...I'll email you!

Rose Pasden said...
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Rose Pasden said...

Joey

Continued success in all you do... this truly looks delicious.

I hope to see more delicious recipes with Pili Nuts.

Sincerely,
Rose
President of Pili Nut Farms

Ice Artificio said...

Thanks for the recipe! I tried it and it worked wonders :D