Recipes for Shabbat
By Eileen Goltz
As a kid one of my favorite things to do was get a big bag of red pistachios and suck on them long enough to turn my mouth, tongue, fingers and anything I touched an indelible shade of scarlet. Every couple of weeks my Mom would bring home enough for all of us (dad included) to crack, suck and spit (a technique I still use to this day) and make a fine mess. The taste was sublime, the color just added to its mystique and it was as fine a childhood memory as you could ask for.
As an adult I still eat lots of pistachios but the only ones I seem to find these days are the natural color ones. While I realize that all that red dye number 5 probably wasn't that great for me and the natural color ones taste just as good, I still wanted to know why the natural pistachio is so easy to get and the red ones are so much harder to find.
What I discovered was that up until the early 1970's the only pistachios available to the consumers were imported from the Middle East. American importers dyed the pistachio shells red to disguise all the bruising and cracks that the antiquated harvesting techniques used in the Middle East. The dye was also used to make the pistachio stand out among all the other nuts in the bins. In 1976, however, the first commercially grown North American crop of pistachios became available. They were larger in size, had a more vibrant green nut color then their Middle Eastern cousin and because the newer harvesting techniques caused less bruising the need to dye the nut ceased to exist. However, if you look hard enough you can still find the red pistachios out there in the marketplace. Some of us dye hard red fans (sorry, I can never resist a food pun) still like to indulge.
If you buy pistachios in bulk like I do you'll want
to store them in an airtight container. They are available salted or
unsalted and shelled or unshelled (tip: always use the shelled unsalted
ones for baking or cooking). They can be kept in the refrigerator or
freezer for as long as 9 months. I also like to shake things up every once
in a while and have been known to substitute pistachios for pecans or
walnuts in my tried and true coffee cakes and cookies. Pistachios always
add a unique flavor and color to any recipe and I say the best time to eat
them is all the time. You will really enjoy the following recipes because
they are all as unique and delicious as the pistachios itself.
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, sprinkle
liberally with salt and let drain in a colander for 30 minutes. In a bowl
combine the pistachios, mint, parsley, garlic and green onions and mix to
combine. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper and mix
well. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Wash the eggplants
thoroughly to remove the salt and dry well. Place the eggplant halves on a
broiler pan and brush the top of each half with olive oil. Place the
eggplants under a broiler for 4-5 minutes until skins blister and char.
Turn them over and brush the tops with oil, cook approx. 1 minute until
brown, and serve immediately with salsa.
Preheat oven to 350 Grease a 3 to 4 quart casserole
dish and set it aside. In a sauce pan (or microwave) combine the margarine
or butter, water and apricot nectar. Cook until the margarine or butter is
melted. Stir in stuffing mix or farfel until the mixture is well
moistened. Mix in the pistachios, onion, apricots and dates. Spoon the
stuffing in the prepared casserole dish and bake covered for 50 minutes to
a 1 hour or until hot and moist. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts stuffing. This
recipe can be doubled or tripled.
Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl combine the sugar
with the shortening, eggs and milk and beat with an electric mixer until
smooth. In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix the
dry ingredients into the milk mixture, mixing so that all the ingredients
are combined. Fold in the mashed bananas and add 3/4 cup pistachios. Turn
into greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle remaining pistachios on
top. Bake for 1 hour or until a pick comes out dry. Cover bread loosely
with foil when it gets to desired color if the center isn't quite done and
To make the pistachio basil butter process the
pistachios, 10 basil leaves and garlic cloves in a food processor or
blender until the mixture is finely chopped. Add 1/2 cup butter and 1
teaspoon lime juice and process until incorporated into the pistachio
mixture. Season the pistachio butter to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to small bowl. cover and refrigerate until well
chilled. (Pistachio butter can be prepared up to 4 days ahead.)
In each of two 3-quart saucepans bring half of water, oil, cinnamon, cumin, salt, and apricots to a boil. Stir 1 box couscous into each pan and let stand, covered, off heat 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to 2 shallow baking pans to cool as quickly as possible. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Cool couscous completely and with your fingers break up any large lumps. Couscous may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring couscous to room temperature before proceeding. Fluff couscous with fork again and stir in currants, pistachios, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 10 TO 12.
© Eileen Goltz 2002