The day has come for pistachio ice cream
I never thought the day would come when I would say these words: Pistachio ice cream is really very good.Obviously, I’m not talking about the kind that’s green. I’m referring in this instance specifically to the Ben and Jerry’s version, which has a nutty-flavored cream-colored base studded with whole pistachio nuts. My personal journey toward embracing pistachio ice cream began with my teenaged daughter, who is enamored of a movie star who said pistachio is his favorite ice cream flavor. Probably he said it to be ironic or flip, but we are taking it very seriously at my house and of course are now eating a lot of pistachio ice cream.Even for normal folk, however, the winter holidays are pistachio season. They feel festive (probably because they’re so expensive). Like walnuts, they’re a good way to keep your hands busy at a holiday party (remember when they were always dyed red? Ugh.). And they make good stocking stuffers.Nutritionally, they’re considered one of the healthiest nuts. They are particularly high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. They have more heart-healthy, colon-cleansing fiber than most other types of nuts. They’re lower in calories and fat than most other nuts, including almonds, cashews, pecans and walnuts. They’re high in magnesium and they have more vitamin B6 than any other nut. The National Institutes of Health helpfully explains that magnesium “helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong.”The institute’s website also says, “There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”Vitamin B6 helps strengthen your immune system and is especially important for children’s brain development.Obviously, the less salt and food coloring you get in your nuts, the healthier they will be. Enjoy them as a snack while you’re watching holiday hockey and football; or incorporate them into recipes. I love couscous topped with chopped pistachios and apricots and sprinkled with a little parsley. The recipe below from Cook’s Illustrated is a powerful bright red sauce designed for ravioli or other pastas that trap water and threaten to dilute their topping.Red pepper and pistachio pestoAdapted from Cook’s Illustrated2 garlic cloves; 2 whole red peppers; 1 cup basil leaves; 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese; 1/2 cup pistachios; 1/4 cup olive oil; coarse salt and fresh pepper to tasteUsing a long fork or tongs, roast the red peppers (one at a time) over an open flame, turning them so all sides get nicely charred. Toss them into a plastic bag for about 5 minutes, then remove them and slip off the charred skin. Cut off the stem, slice open and remove the seeds and then slice the peppers into strips. Toss all the ingredients except the oil and spices into a food processor and run it for 20 or 30 pulses, until everything is finely ground into a thick paste. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.