We do not travel often. Yet, we are quite lucky to have contemporaries around the country and the globe who do and share their stories and inspirations. These are the culinary conversations I talk about which trigger many of our thoughts and force us to revisit older ideas. In talking with Wylie, he mentioned he was working on a new dish featuring tender pine nuts. The dish sounds amazing, though I am not sure if it has gone public yet, so I will refrain from discussing it further. Anyway, his tender pine nuts reminded me of some braised Brazil Nuts we were working with about a year ago. The Brazil nuts came and went, tasty but not truly mind blowing. Wylie was looking at nuts in another form and that sparked several of my thoughts. The first was to have tender almonds as an integral ingredient. We cooked the almonds and served them in a dish with turbot and clams. Again tasty, interesting and exciting but not exceptionally memorable.
After having some success with cooking almonds I began to think of what other nuts could be cooked till tender. My mind immediately went to sunflower seeds because of their size and shape. I was looking to do a dish in the style of risotto without using the rice. Tenderized sunflower seeds would be the perfect stand in. So, I went about cooking the sunflower seeds until they were tender. I then folded in some butter, creme fraiche, minced artichokes and porcini mushrooms and some diced shrimp. The mixture was finished with chives, lemon juice and some young basil and Comte cheese. The tender nutty nature of the seeds in conjunction with the other ingredients creates a rich and decadent dish and ruse at the same time.