Happy National Pistachio Day! January 26th is dedicated to this little green nut.
While the pistachio is a truly historical nut (there are even references to it in the Bible), the flavor of pistachios didn’t became popular in the U.S. until the 1940s. That’s when a man named James Parkinson created pistachio ice cream in Philadelphia. There wasn’t even a pistachio industry here until the 1970s. The pistachios you get now are likely from California – that state produces more than 300 million pounds of pistachios.
Want to keep your heart healthy? Pistachios are tree nuts, which studies have shown to lower your risk of heart disease. The reason is that they’re packed with phytosterols which actually compete with cholesterol to be absorbed in your body. They’re also a good snack because they contain “good” unsaturated fat. Pistachios also contain antioxidants to help your heart and overall health and have 3 grams of fiber per serving to keep you feeling full, longer. When you eat a handful you’re also getting vitamin B6, copper, potassium and magnesium.
A great way to start using pistachios is in this biscotti recipe from Food Network’s Tyler Florence:
1 1/2 cups pistachios
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lay the pistachios on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes or until the nuts are lightly toasted. Remove from the oven.
In an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, gradually add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla; mix until creamed. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dough until smooth. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the pistachios until evenly distributed.
Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut in half. Roll each half into a log, each 12 inches long by 1-inch high. Place the logs on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly brown. Let the logs cool for 5 minutes and then place on a cutting board. Slice each log on a diagonal into 12 1-inch thick pieces. Put the cookies back on the cookie sheet and bake 5 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake the other side for another 5 minutes. Store cookies in an airtight container. Makes 24 cookies.