News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Family and Food: Pistachios – Beneath the Shell

JCCHD | Wed, May 30, 2012 | [Family and Food][Healthcare]

I heart Pistachios!

Pistachios have a lot hidden under their shells. This nut promotes healthy heart function and is full of fiber and minerals and vitamins such as copper, manganese, phosphorus, thiamin, and B6. Pistachios are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and contain one of the highest levels of antioxidants among nuts.

Pistachios originated in the Middle East. Due to high demand from Middle Eastern immigrants, they appeared in America roughly in the 1880’s. Soon thereafter, they became a popular snack in vending machines. Eventually, California growers began producing pistachios in the fertile Central Valley, which offered perfect conditions for cultivation – a warm, dry climate with very mild winters. Though it took several years of experimentation to develop the pistachio industry in America, by the 1960’s it was in full swing. Today, California, Arizona, and New Mexico house all of the 850 producers in the U.S.

Pistachios make a great, low-calorie, high-protein, healthy snack. Below you’ll find several options for incorporating pistachios into your meal plans.

Mixed Grain Pilaf with Dried Apricots and California Pistachios
Serves 6.

Mixed Grain Pilaf with Dried Apricots and California Pistachios

1 tablespoon oil (sunflower or grapeseed)
¼ cup amaranth*
¼ cup quinoa*
¾ cup Basmati rice
¼ cup millet*
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
¾ cup California pistachios, lightly toasted

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add amaranth, quinoa, rice and millet and stir 1 to 2 minutes until grains are coated and hot.  Increase heat to high.  Add apricots, ¾ teaspoon salt, pepper, stock and water; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer covered for 25 minutes until grains are tender and liquid is absorbed.  Add California pistachios and fluff with a fork to mix.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot. 

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Gluten-Free Lemon Pistachio Biscotti By Carol Kicinski

1 ¾ cups pastry-quality gluten-free flour blend with xanthan gum*
¼ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup light brown-sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 large lemon
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups roasted, salted pistachios, roughly chopped
*make your own gluten-free flour blend by whisking together 1 cup superfine white rice flour with ½ cup superfine sweet rice flour, ¼ cup tapioca starch, and 1 teaspoon xanthan gum.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, salt, and baking powder. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or with a handheld at medium speed, beat the olive oil with the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and eggs until well combined. Turn mixer to low, gradually add the flour mixture. Add the pistachios and stir by hand to combine. Place dough on prepared baking sheet and form into a log which is roughly 12 inches long by 4 inches wide and ½ inch high, If dough is too sticky, wet your hands with water. Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cover with two tea towels. Increase oven heat to 350°F. Remove the log from the baking sheet and place on cutting board. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut the biscotti on a diagonal into ¾ inch slices and place slices back on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until the biscotti are golden brown. Store in an airtight container.

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