I remember when I first saw fresh pistachio nuts at a farmer’s market here in Adelaide last year, I had never seen them in its unadulterated state before and it made me giddy to try one of my favourite nuts fresh and without all the extra salt that the roasted ones are often coated with. When I was a kid in the USA, I often remember roasted and salted pistachios that were dyed red (though they are becoming less common now) and I could NEVER understand why there was any need to dye them at all but according to Micheal Moyer, Jill C. Shomer, Trevor Thieme and Bob Sillery on http://www.popsci.com:
Until the mid-1970s, all pistachios sold in the United States were imported, mainly from the Middle East. The traditional growing and harvesting methods used by pistachio farmers in countries such as Iran, Syria, and Greece often left blemishes on the outer shell, which American importers would mask with a red vegetable dye. But with the growth of the domestic pistachio industry, the days of the red pistachio may be numbered. About 96 percent of the pistachios currently sold in the United States are grown in California. These nuts are harvested without blemishes, which makes the red dyes moot.
Very interesting…anyway, back to the fresh ones. Fresh pistachios to me are such an amazing treat and because they are seasonal (end of summer), I get so excited when I see them come to the markets every year. I get home and eat them over a few days (usually in front of the television) which is why I have yet to actually cook with them. Being an ex-pastry chef, I naturally think about all the sweet dessert that would work well but I know that pistachios can be used in many savoury ways as well. I personally love pistachios, pears and cardamom together as a combination and I ADORE pistachio ice cream/gelato (I always ordered pistachio gelato at every gelato stand I went to in Italy).
Fresh pistachios have this beautifully pink and white outer “skin” which feels a bit like a thick flower petal – that needs to be peeled off. Then you quietly hope that the shell you are about to open is already slightly split because it’s a darn sight easier to get the nut out than if it is completely shut. If shut (which many are), either pop them into your mouth and crunch on them with your molars and hope that you don’t knock an old filling out OR you could get a nut cracker and open it in a more civilised way (I am usually too lazy to get a nut cracker)! The nut is very moist, sweet with a grassy, fresh undertone and has a brilliant green colour on the outside and creamy yellow on the inside. If you ever encounter them at your local market, try to choose ones that don’t look bruised and that have no black spots on the outer skin. If you love pistachios as much as I do, your first mouthful will be absolute heaven!