Nuts About Pistachios

Did you know that pistachios have been cultivated as a food source in about 7,000 BCE? Did you know that 99% percent of the nation’s pistachios are grown right here in California? Or that since 2008, the U.S. has been the world’s largest supplier of pistachios? OK, well, did you know that the pistachio is a high-fiber, low-carb food with less fat than any other nut? Oh, do I have your attention now?

Some culinary creations at chi Spacca.
Some culinary creations at chi Spacca.

Last week, the American Pistachio Growers showcased their prized product with the help of James Beard Award-winning chef Nancy Silverton at her Melrose Avenue hot spot, chi Spacca. Silverton demonstrated the culinary possibilities of the ancient nut by featuring it as the centerpiece of some very modern recipes, including a bacon terrine with pistachios; a pistachio pizza with panna, red onion, Castelvetrano olives, thyme and fennel pollens; a rucola and wild cress salad with pistachio allade, and a marinated radicchio and beet salad with goat cheese and crushed pistachios. She even incorporated the versatile nut into a swordfish entree and a gelato for dessert.

 pistachio pizza
Pistachio pizza

Among the event’s featured speakers was Cheryl Forberg, R.D., dietician for TV’s “The Biggest Loser.” Forberg says she is a big proponent of pistachios as a weight-loss aid. Packed with protein and a little healthy fat, the pistachio is not just healthy but satiating. They also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure.

Unshelled "falafel-style" pistachios.
Unshelled “falafel-style” pistachios.

Already ubiquitous in most beet salads, expect pistachios to find their way onto many menus in the coming year as chefs discover the nut’s many pairing possibilities.

chi Specca Chef Nancy Silverton demonstrates cooking with pistachios.
Chef Nancy Silverton demonstrates cooking with pistachios.

All photos courtesy of Scott Bridges.

Scott Bridges, writer

Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.