Cracking story of smiling pistachios
March 08 2018 10:35 PM
SWEET: Pistachio Strawberry Cheese Cake is served cold. Photo by the author

Do you love nuts but steer clear of them because you are afraid of binge eating too many of them? The good news is that you don’t have to avoid them anymore. If you want to snack on nuts mindfully, your best bet is to eat pistachios. Well technically pistachios are not nut. They are actually a seed. Yes you read it right they are actually seeds of red or yellow plum like fruits whose flesh is removed during processing. However everyone calls them nuts as they resemble nuts and are classified as cashew family. Other such items classified under cashew family are sumac, mangoes and poison ivy. So this also makes pistachios a distant relative of mangoes!
Pistachios as compared to any other nuts have lower calories and have a unique flavour profile of their own. You can easily consume about 45 pistachios for 99 calorie snack and that is a deal breaker. It makes a great snack in the afternoon along with fruit too. The fat in the seeds and nuts keep you feeling fuller for longer too.
February 26 is celebrated as National Pistachio Day and 98% of the pistachios produced in the United States are from California and are also exported all over the world and chances are that your favourite pack of pistachio in your grocery store has travelled all the way from California. Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering trees in the world and have been mentioned in ancient books for their taste and health aspect. Very few food items find their space in royal legends, one such legend states that the queen of Sheba made an official declaration hat pistachios were an exclusive royal food. In fact she even went so far as to forbid commoners from growing the nut for their own consumption. The ancient king of Babylon also had pistachio trees planted in his garden. The Mogul emperor, Akbar the great hosted lavish banquets befitting his royal status. He often served chicken at those feasts and even ordered the chickens to be fed pistachio for weeks in advance to give chicken a unique and delicious flavour. Also there were many other pistachio related items in the feast.
Pistachios are also referred as smiling pistachio in Iran and happy nut in China. In Middle East, pistachio is consumed in large quantities and is a common snack during get together and celebrations. Pistachios are also known as green almond. There is a saying that if you are sitting under a pistachio tree and you hear the shells snapping open, it is a sign of good luck. Pistachios come in many colours. Many years ago pistachios were dyed red to make them more eye-catching and to hide the imperfections in the shells and to make the nuts stand out in vending machines and grocery shelf displays.
Pistachios are sold in their shells and out of their shells. If you love the taste of pistachio but hate having to remove the shell apart, shelled pistachios are the best but you’ll end up paying almost double the price of pistachio and also consume more. Studies have shown that removing pistachio from their shells slows your consumption.
While purchasing the nuts in their shells, look for blemish free, ivory coloured shells that are split open at end. Avoid pistachios that are cracked beyond the natural opening. Unopened shells besides being almost impossible to peel open are an indicator of immaturity. The kernel or nutmeat should be yellow to dark green in colour. The greener the nutmeg is, the better the flavour will be.
Also do not buy pistachios which are not from reliable source as improper processed or harvested pistachios are not suitable for human consumption.
After you eat pistachio you are left with the shells? Turkey is the first country to have thought about this and is working on a project to turn those shells into a fuel and run a city.

Pistachio Strawberry Cheese Cake


For the crust
Biscuit crumble 1 cup
Castor sugar 1/4 cup
Unsalted butter 1/2 cup
Vanilla extracts 1/4 tsp
For the filling
Cream cheese 250 gm
Condensed milk 300 gm
Pistachio pudding powder 100 gm
Eggs 5 nos.
Strawberry 4 nos.
Macaroon  4 nos (optional)
Pistachio powder 2 tbsp
whipped cream to garnish

For the crust, combine biscuit crumble, sugar, unsalted butter and vanilla extract in a bowl 
Combine well to a crumbly mixture and place in a 9 inch ring pan 
Press to make an even layer and refrigerate for 30 minutes
For the filling whisk cream cheese, milk and pistachio pudding mix until smooth
Add eggs and whisk on low speed until combined
Pour the filling over the prepared crust and add sliced strawberries 
Place the pan in a baking sheet, Bake for 50-60 minutes, water bath in a preheated oven at 350 Degree Fahrenheit
Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, refrigerate for 2-3 hours
Carefully run a knife around the sides to loosen up, remove the ring 
Serve cold garnished with macaron or pistachio powder or whipped cream.
Note: Water bath- when you place water in the baking tray surrounding the baking and it is called water bath, it allows even baking.

*Chef Tarun Kapoor,  
Culinary Mastermind,  USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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