Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pistachios are the new Almonds.

By Laura Medina


With the on-going drought in sunny, dry California, the poor almond is getting a bad reputation due to being too popular for its own good as a peanut alternative.  When hunger for almonds and almond butter has hit an all-time high (which this almond lover doesn't mind one bite), it's when the drought struck the state.

The rural countryside of California is America's fruit, vegetables, and nuts basket.  Yes, incurring the joke that California is the "Land of Fruits and Nuts."  In this case, it's a good thing.  A countryside is wide and abundant in produce, soil, and climate, it's in the same league as the treasured "Mediterranean" region of France, Italy, and Greece.

Since it's rich in soil and climate, pistachios are emerging behind almond's shadow, as the drought alternative nut since pistachios only consume 3/4 the water that almonds uses, poor almonds.

In this water-conserving state, pistachios are the new almond replacement which it has always served in the drier Middle-Eastern countries.

Celebrity Chef Nancy Silverton, with generous helping from the American Pistachio Growers, demonstrated  the various to use, cook, and serve pistachios beyond snacking.

Not that there's any wrong with snacking, she also showed the different approaches on how to snack on them, too.  

At the luncheon, the heavenly immense luncheon, pistachios still in their shells have been roasted for fun snacking.  For those too lazy and too busy to peel off the shells, shelled pistachios are also roasted and grilled, releasing their own nut oils then sprinkled with spices for a delicious flavored pistachios.  Pretty easy.  Pretty Fun.


Here's a recipe for Country Pork Pate with Pistachios mixed in by Charleston's very own Chef Mike Lata, that Chi Specca (Chef Nancy Silverton's restaurant) happily re-created for this nutty feast...

Country pork pate with pistachios By: Chef Mike Lata 


3 pounds Fresh pork(ham)
1.5 pound Fat back
½ pound Chicken liver
½ Onion, minced
2 Fresh bay leaves
½ tablespoon Pureed garlic
3 ounces Brandy
3 ounces White wine
Pinch Sugar
1 cup Toasted pistachios
20 grams Salt
8 grams White pepper
6 grams Selrose (curing salt)
3 grams 4 spice
½ bunch Parsley leaves, picked and washed
2 tablespoons Fresh picked thyme

Cut the meat and fat into 1” cubes and put into a large bowl and place in fridge until ready.
Add onion, garlic, brandy, wine, bay leaves, into a 2 quart saucepan and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, and reduce till about half. Let cool.
Add the salt, selrose, pepper, 4 spice, parsley leaves, thyme, to the diced meat and stir to incorporate. When the wine mixture has cooled, add to the meat and stir in. Let meat marinade overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
Toast the pistachios until fragrant and reserve.
Grind the meat through the medium die once being sure to keep the meat as cold as possible. When the pistachios are cool, fold into the meat. Paddle the mixture in a kitchen aid for 2 minutes on medium speed to bind the meat.
Line a terrine mold with plastic film and pack the mixture into it, pressing firmly to let out any air pockets. Top the terrine with a couple more bay leaves and a sprig of rosemary then cover and bake until they reach 155˚ degrees internally. Cool and place in fridge overnight.
Unmold and slice. Serve with crusty bread, dijon mustard and pickles.

The three-course appetizers whet the lucky guests' appetites with pistachio pizza, roasted pistachios two ways, and the Country Pork Pate studded with pistachios.

The real lunch didn't really begin until they were treated to a pair of rare cooking demonstrations by the highly-acclaimed but media-shy Chef Nancy Silverton.  

Truth be told, her recipes are pretty simple with no cooking involved since they're salads.

Chef Nancy Silverton dicing pistachios into pistachio dressing, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huQVRSw6Am4

In this first video, Nancy demonstrated Market Rucola & Wild Cress with Pistachio Aillade, a fancy name for crushed pistachio dressing.


The second salad is still easy, Chef Nancy Silverton's Marinated Radicchio & Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Crushed Pistachios.  

Basically, you marinade radicchio and pickled beets together then you pinch off a piece from a goat cheese log, roll it into a ball then toss and coat it in a bowl full of crushed pistachios until the ball is completely coated in pistachios.  Repeat until you use up the whole log of goat cheese.  Pretty eh?  You can serve the pistachio goat cheese balls as stand-alone appetizers and snacks.


The main entree is Swordfish Spiedini with Fregola Sarda and Pistachios by Chef Chad Colby.  Basically, he grilled chunks of swordfish in pistachio oil and served couscous mixed with pistachios, of course.

Actually, the American Pistachio Luncheon is a full serving 6-course luncheon.  So much servings and helpings that it was a sin to let this all go to waste, in a pompous, pretentious LA way.  This thankful foodie was grateful to be hosted in such a gracious restaurant that knows the importance of being starved of water...and food that they kindly saved whatever was not eaten or finished into doggy bags to be savored later on, either as a very good dinner or a lunch time treat. 


Well, one gotta save room for dessert.  Actually, making pistachio gelato is the most difficult thing to make on the menu.

The Pistacho Gelato is topped with a generous dollop of Strawberry Coppetta, served in a tall sundae glass.

Now that this scrumptious scribe got ya' hungry for all things pistachios, go to http://www.americanpistachios.org/recipes-and-snacking for all things pistachios.

For my hometown Lowcountry fans, y'all will be tickled that culinary heroes, Chef Ben Berryhill of the Red Drum Restaurant, The Ordinary's & FIG's Chef Mike Lata, and superstar Chef Sean Brock have their pistachio recipes proudly displayed on the California-based American Pistachio Growers' website.

While they give the almond a much-needed rest, it's time for pistachios to step up to the plate.



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