We in Sicily are quite blessed by the production of yummy almonds and pistachios. The city of Agrigento has a festival for the blossoming of the almonds tree that grow in its countryside and in the Noto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noto valley. Pistachios are instead grown on the sides of the Etna volcano in the city of Bronte. We use both nuts quite a lot both in savory and sweet recipes but while almonds are more assertive, pistachios are quite subtle in taste (and more expensive too).
Almonds are omnipresent in my pesto sauces but I have not worked extensively with pistachios before; I have then decided that it was due time to face the nut.
In this post, you will find a series of experiments I made with them, mostly savory with a great classic as sweet. Let me know what you think of them.
Double potato salad with green onions and pistachios
In salted water (or stock) boil a batch of potato cut into chunks still with their peel on. When ready drain and let them cool down slightly. In the meantime warm up the oven to 200C/400F and cut the potatoes in smaller bite sized pieces.
Put half of the potatoes in a baking tin with some canola oil, sprinkle with red chili flakes and rosemary needles; toss them to coat properly and bake until crispy.
When ready, let them cool down before putting both batches of potatoes in a salad bowl along with the roasting oil and some extra olive oil if needed. Add at this point some julienned spring onions, shelled pistachios nuts and lemon juice. Toss and enjoy!
Basmati rice, red onions, cheese and pistachios
This was more a lunch improvisation and that means more “throw all together fast” than “think at what you do”. How to proceed; in the rice cooker put your rice, water, instant stock/salt, some sliced red onions and cook till ready. In the meantime in some olive oil slowly start caramelizing some more red onions cut in slices. When the onions will start to take color, add some pistachio nuts to the pan. When the rice will be ready, dish it in layers with some easy-melting cheese in between. Top with the onions and pistachios mixture that you will have previously properly seasoned with salt and pepper.
Pasta with warm anchovy pistachios sauce
If the previous recipes shared a more general European inspiration, these two latter ones are more expressly Sicilian.
For this pasta you will need to prepare a simple warm sauce. While the water for the pasta is warming up, in a pan dissolve, in some olive oil, one anchovy fillet per person. Pound with mortar and pestle a handful of pistachio nuts and when the pasta will be cooking, add the nuts and a small chopped garlic clove to the pan with the oil and cook over medium heat. When the pasta will be ready, drain it and dress it with the sauce. Before eating sprinkle your dish with some nicely grated Parmesan cheese.
Pistachio-marzipan cassata cake
This one is the most classical dessert made in Sicily: a shell of genoise cake filled with a sweet ricotta cream sweetened with sugar and spiced with cinnamon, is covered with a thin layer of green marzipan and a sugar glaze. In my case, I wanted to make single portioned cake so I cut a biscuit with a cookie cutter to make the top and bottom layer of the cakes while for the sides I used a layer of pistachios marzipan (that you make kneading together grounded pistachios with icing sugar and a bit of egg white). I did not have icing sugar left to make the sugar glaze, so I left it untouched and decorated the cake with candied cherries and mint.
This cake is gorgeous with a coffee, as every dessert with a sweet ricotta filling.
This naturally does not represent the best it can be done with these nuts but just how versatile they can be. I will continue experimenting with them; stay tuned!