Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I have written before of my love for the humble (and yet slightly exotic) Pistachio.

In my Snot-Nose Days, Carvel was the ubiquitous ice cream of the Northeast. Back then, there was none of this 33 flavor hard-pack bullshit: Carvel offered soft-serve, and soft-serve only, and the flavor choices were vanilla and chocolate. Occasionally, when the mood suited them, they’d add a Flavor of the Week, and I would look forward to the days when pistachio would be on the menu.

Later, I discovered the pleasures of the Real Thing, pistachio nuts in their red-dyed shells. Another, even later revelation: the best pistachios did not have their shells dyed. Their little jackets were a handsome beige, and inside was a delicately flavored nut-meat with that elusive green tinge.

Pistachios lend themselves well to recipes that more often use other, less exotic nuts. Today I substituted them for hazelnuts and made some Pistachio-Ginger Macaroons... a lot more interesting that the crappy coconut macaroons that the Stoopid-Markets flog every Passover.

Alas, pistachios can be a bit of a pin in the arse. You have to shell them - no big deal - and then peel them. (If you really hate shelling ’em, you can pay a premium to buy the pre-shelled kernels, but I don’t think these have the same flavor as the ones that come in their shells.) I rinse them under running water to wash off the salt, then throw them in a pot of boiling water for two minutes to blanch them. This makes it easy work to remove the skins, which slip right off. (Run some cold water over the blanched nuts so you don’t burn the crap out of your fingers while peeling them!) You’ll want three cups of blanched, peeled kernels.

Pistachios - Raw
Shelled pistachio kernels, after rinsing to remove salt. Note the purplish skins. Also note the colander, which is actually being used for its intended purpose.

Once the pistachios are all peeled, throw ’em on a baking sheet and toast them in a 350°F oven for 8-15 minutes - until they are dry and aromatic. Turn the oven down to 325°F when they’re done.

Pistachios - Blanched
Pistachio kernels after blanching, peeling, and toasting. I love that subtle green color.

Put the toasted kernels in a food processor with 1¼ cups granulated sugar and 3 tbsp (1½ ounces) crystallized ginger; process until fine. Add three large egg whites, one at a time, and process after each addition until the mixture is well blended. Use a tablespoon to drop the mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheets; smooth the tops with a wet finger, then bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops begin to pick up some color. When done, slide the parchment onto a rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely (they will harden up somewhat), then store in an airtight container.

Pistachio-Ginger Macaroons
Pistachio-Ginger Macaroons.

Damn, these things are good... and just right to provide the finishing touch to a Passover seder meal. A zissen Pesach!

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