Vail Simply Seasonal column cracks pistachios
Sure signs of the approaching holidays are the abundant bins of freshly harvested nuts brimming at local groceries. One of my favorites is the pistachio – the ritual of cracking the shells to access each soft kernel is methodically pleasing. It doesn’t keep me from eating too many, but with all the positive health benefits, who cares? Pistachios are one of the lowest calorie, lowest fat, highest fiber nuts. They are an excellent source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium and manganese as well as other important vitamins and minerals for the body.Archaeological discoveries in Turkey surmise that pistachios grew there as early as 7000 BC. Flourishing in hot climates, pistachios spread from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, quickly becoming a treasured delicacy among royalty, travelers and common folk alike. Pistachios are a relatively new U.S. crop. Only since the 1970’s has California planted the flowering trees and it now produces 98 percent of this country’s pistachios – about 300 million pounds. Not just for snacking, pistachios make an excellent ingredient for desserts. “The pistachio and chocolate dessert in this photo has many steps and uses equipment you may not have at home,” said Avondale’s pastry chef, Bill Fitzgerald. “But you can duplicate the creamy chocolate mousse and crunch of pistachio in a much simpler version. Then make a pretty presentation by using stemmed crystal. For a holiday buffet, a silver tray of unmatched sizes and patterns of stemware would be a striking display of chocolate mousse with pistachio cookies. Let your imagination be your guide!”Chocolate mousse7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped7 egg yolks, beaten2 tablespoons sugar1 pinch salt7 egg white1 1/4 cups heavy cream1 tablespoon KahluaPlace chocolate in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until mostly melted, then remove from heat, and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream to medium stiff peaks, but do not allow it to become grainy. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the sugar, and continue whipping to medium stiff peaks. Fold in egg yolks and kahlua. Fold in the melted chocolate until completely incorporated, then fold in whipped cream until evenly blended. Spoon into stemmed crystal glassware, and chill until firm, about 1 hour. Makes 8 – 12 servings, depending on size of glasses.Pistachio shortbread cookies1 2/3 cups flour 1 large egg yolk 3/4 cup unsalted butter – room temperature 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup cornstarch 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts Preheat oven to 325. Place pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar in bowl of food processor and process until nuts are finely ground. Add flour, cornstarch, and salt and pulse until blended. Set aside. In bowl of electric mixer use paddle attachment to beat butter and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk and mix until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.Scrape down the bowl as needed. Turn dough out onto the work surface and knead a few times until smooth. Divide in half and shape each half into a disk. Place one disk on large piece of waxed paper, place another piece of waxed paper over it, roll out to 1/8 inch. Carefully peel off the top piece of wax paper. Cut shapes and place on parchment lined baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes until edges begin to brown.Assemble: Remove chilled glasses of mousse from refrigerator. Top each with a small dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Sprinkle additional chopped pistachios on top. Tuck a cookie into the mousse and serve.Makes 24.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. Avondale opened in September 2008 and features straightforward, seasonal American cuisine in a stylish, social setting with views of Beaver Creek Mountain and the Eagle River. Contact email@example.com.