Pistachios are the superheroes of nuts. They are a wonderful snack food, with their own little cases cracked open, waiting for you to pluck out the bright green nuts. We refer to them as nuts, although they are technically seeds like their cousin the cashew. Growing in clusters on a tree, the pistachio seeds expand, cracking open the hard shells. They are then taken through a drying process. The bright green color comes from chlorophyll, like in other green plants, which makes it unique among nuts and seeds. They have a distinct sweet flavor, ideal for both savory and dessert applications. In some cultures, like Persian, pistachios are considered a luxury item along with caviar. Here is more about this wondrous seed disguised as a nut.
How to choose and store. Look for pistachios with split, beige-colored shells, which indicate ripeness, and bright green nuts. Pistachios are highly perishable, so put nuts in a plastic bag or container and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
Health benefits. Nuts have healthy fat, but pistachios in particular are a good source of oleic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, and folic acid, which helps reduce heart disease.
What you can do with pistachios. Pistachios are eaten as a snack item, either pre-shelled or with the shell so you can get the satisfaction of cracking them open yourself. They are also used to make pestos, oil, ice cream, and much more.
What to eat with pistachios. Use pistachios to garnish salads, cakes, and cookies, or put chopped pistachios in couscous or rice, on top of yogurt or ice cream, or top off chocolate-dipped pretzels or strawberries. They can also be used with proteins, like crusting lamb chops, salmon, or chicken.
How to candy pistachios. In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup water and ½ cup sugar over medium heat. Boil rapidly for 4 minutes, then add 1 cup roasted pistachios, stirring constantly until sugar begins to crystallize. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with salt. Let cool before storing in airtight container. Use this method to candy any kind of nuts. v
Grilled Pistachio-Glazed Salmon
1 cup pistachios, chopped
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh dill
1 tsp. pepper
6 salmon fillets (preferably wild Alaskan), 6 oz. each
salt to taste
Combine pistachios, sugar, lemon juice, dill, and pepper. Season salmon with salt. Spoon pistachio mixture evenly over salmon fillets. Grill covered over high heat 5–10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Alternatively, you can roast the salmon in a 400° oven for 10–15 minutes. Serve with couscous or rice.
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