Back to the Kitchen: Pistachios Star in Appetizers, Salads, Entrees and Desserts

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It was always such a treat to go to my grandmother’s house and raid her crystal nut bowl of pistachios. It sometimes seemed like a lot of work, but it was worth the trouble. Pistachios are the star of Middle Eastern cooking and are a beautiful green nut that adds so much beauty as well as flavor to many dishes! Perfect for baking, pistachios are available shelled and ready to use to create new and inventive ways to celebrate this little treasure of the nut family.

Bite Size Appetizer 
Apricot, Pistachios with Goat Cheese

75 dried apricot halves

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios, toasted

1-teaspoon salt

½ pound goat cheese, chilled

Toss apricots with juice and zest and let stand, tossing occasionally, 20 minutes. 

Chop pistachios and season with salt. Drain apricots, cut sides up, on paper towels. Top each with a small chunk of cheese and sprinkle with nuts. 
They make 75 little bites so you can cut it half for smaller gatherings.

Grapes with Goat Cheese

2 cups goat  cheese

1 cup pistachios nuts, ground

24 seedless grapes

Wash your grapes and make sure they’re fully dry before beginning. Place 1 teaspoon of soft goat cheese in the palm of your hand. Press the grape into the cheese. Roll the grape between both your hands as you would when forming a meatball. Once the grape is fully covered with goat cheese, roll in ground pistachios. Set on a separate plate and repeat. Makes 24.

Fennel , Orange and Pistachio Salad

2 navel oranges, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced

1 small bulb fennel, quartered, cored and very thinly sliced

1 cup very thinly sliced radishes

1 cup diced jicama

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons pistachio oil or olive oil

4 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/4-teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons shelled salted pistachios, toasted and chopped

Toss together and chill for a few hours or over night and serve.


Orzo Salad with Shrimp and Pistachio Salad

Pistachio Pesto:

1 cup shelled pistachios

2 garlic cloves

2 cups basil

1/4 cup Parmigianino cheese

1/2-teaspoon salt

Coarsely ground black pepper

1/2-cup olive oil

2 cups cold cooked orzo pasta

1 cup pistachio pesto

1 pound cooked shrimp

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2-teaspoon salt

Coarsely ground black pepper

To prepare the pesto, place pistachios and garlic in a food processor; process until minced. Add basil, cheese, salt and pepper; process until finely minced. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended.  To prepare the salad, combine all ingredients in a bowl; toss well. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 6.

Pistachio Crusted Chilean Sea Bass

6 6-ounce pieces of Chilean Sea Bass

1-cup ground pistachios

1 cup Panko (Japanese style bread crumbs)

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

2 shallots chopped

1 stalk lemon grass, chopped

3-garlic clove, chopped

1 stick butter, softened

1 bay leaf

1 Table. Whole white peppercorns

2 cups white wine

1-cup cream

Mix together panko, cilantro and pistachios. Brush fish with Dijon mustard and coat with Pistachio mixture. Bake at 375*F. for 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile put shallots, garlic, wine, peppercorns, lemon stalk and bay leaf in a medium sauce pan. Reduce slowly to a syrupy consistency. Strain through a fine sieve. Add cream and reduce a little more. Whisk in the butter a little at a time over low heat until all the butter is used. Sauce should be creamy. Pour over fish and serve. Serves 6

Salmon with Pistachio Basil Butter

1/4 cup shelled pistachios

20 large fresh basil leaves

1/4-cup parsley

3 garlic cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

Juice and zest of one lime (3 tablespoons)

6 6-ounce 1 1/2-inch-thick salmon fillets

1/2 cup dry white wine

Additional fresh basil leaves for garnish

Process pistachios, 20 basil leaves and garlic cloves in processor until finely chopped. Add 1/2-cup butter and 1-teaspoon limejuice and process until incorporated into mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer butter mixture to small bowl. Refrigerate until well chilled. (Pistachio butter can be prepared up to 4 days ahead.) 

Preheat oven to 400 Butter 9×13-inch baking dish. Place salmon fillets in dish in single layer. Pour white wine over. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Bake salmon until almost opaque on top, about 10 minutes. Place 2 tablespoons pistachio butter atop each salmon piece. Continue baking until salmon filets are just opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Transfer salmon to plates. Garnish with basil if desired and serve immediately. Serves 6


1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

3 cups flour

3 teaspoon baking powder

1/2-teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1-teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pistachios

Cream butter and sugar add the eggs one at a time then the rest of the ingredients. Form 2 “ by 1/2” loaves (makes 2 or 3 long loaves) Bake 20 minutes at 350. Slice diagonally 1/2 inch. Bake 10 or 15 minutes more.

Brown Sugar, Pear & Pistachio Cake with 
Ginger Buttercream

4 sticks butter

2 lbs. (6–8) winter pears, or unripe Bosc or Bartlett pears, scrubbed clean

6 large eggs

3 cups brown sugar

3 tsp. baking soda

1½ tsp. baking powder

1½ tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

3 tsp. vanilla extract

4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 lb. (3 cups) toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

Adjust oven rack to center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment, then lightly butter and flour. In a small lightly colored saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When it has completely liquefied, turn heat to medium to brown the butter. It will bubble, and brown bits will form on the bottom of the pan. When the sputtering stops, strain butter through cheesecloth, and set aside to cool. You should have 1½ cup.

Core the pears, leaving the peel on, and shred using the large side of a box grater or the medium-size grating attachment on a food processor. Gather shredded fruit into a triple thickness of cheesecloth or a thin cotton dishtowel, and squeeze the liquid from the pears, capturing ¾ cup of pear juice.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then drizzle in brown butter and add vanilla. Add flour, and stir until just incorporated. Stir in shredded pear and pistachios gently. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the cakes have puffed and are lightly browned. Remove to a rack and let cool entirely before peeling away the parchment paper.

To assemble the cake, generously spread butter cream frosting between layers before stacking. Frost the sides and top once with a thin “crumb coat.” Chill cake for 30 minutes, then frost sides and top again with a thick layer. Chill well.

Ginger Buttercream Frosting

1 cup egg whites, about 10 large eggs, at room temperature

1½ cups sugar

½ tsp. kosher salt

8 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2-inch chunks

4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger

2 tbsp. powdered ginger

Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisk the mixture gently until it warms to between 145 and 150 degrees. Remove from heat. Using a mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites double in volume and turn snowy white and the bowl is completely cool, about 10–15 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add in butter, one chunk at a time, giving each addition several seconds to incorporate. (You’ll see the meringue deflate during the first few additions.) Add in vanilla and both gingers, and continue whipping until evenly incorporated. Store in the refrigerator up to one week. Whip again before frosting.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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