January 26 – Pistachio Day
Let all readers henceforth be warned: you won’t find any neon green cold confections in this review. Pistachio ice cream is all well and good–it’s really one of my favorite flavors, crisp and clean, not overly sweet, and the grittiness of the ground nuts gives it a special texture–but I decided to look for dishes with a higher finesse for National Pistachio Day. Pistachios are another one of those ingredients, like curry, that has spanned the globe and can be found in a number of international cuisines, from Turkish desserts to Italian sweets, and can enhance the flavor of both sweet and savory dishes. Here are some of my favorite foods with pistachios, and some fantastic places in New York to find them.
According to Wikipedia, the pistachio plant originates in the Middle East, but now can be found throughout the Near East Asian countries, parts of Europe, and the United States. One of my favorite desserts comes from that region: Pistachio Rolls are a variation on Turkish baklava, which can also be made with pistachio nuts. Instead of forming many tiny layers of nuts, honey, spices, and phyllo dough, everything is wrapped up splendidly in one gooey roll. I prefer pistachio rolls over baklava at times because it’s all wrapped up in a compact package that I can eat with my hands (albeit get them all sticky, but whatever), and it doesn’t fall apart like the strata of the baklava. I also find that you get more nut for your buck in the roll :) A great place to get a Turkish pistachio roll is the Turkish Kitchen on Third Avenue. The place has a wide variety of Middle Eastern desserts, some of which highlight the nuttiness of the pistachio.
386 3rd Ave (between 27th St & 28th St)
Heading westward on the globe, Italy also cultivates pistachios and utilizes them in their cuisine. A step up from the bright green pistachio ice cream we’re all used to, pistachio gelato has a lower butterfat content and higher sugar content than ice cream, making the dessert sweeter, yet less creamy than ice cream, which allows the pistachio flavor and texture to really shine. La Cremeria on (where else) Mulberry Street in Little Italy serves an exemplary pistachio gelato, made from real pistachio paste–not a substitute, and definitely not with the unnatural green food coloring. It’s refreshing, tasty, and made from real, fresh ingredients–exactly what a gelato should be.
178 Mulberry St (between Broome St & Kenmare St)
“It had a texture smooth as silk, it was the perfect temperature – so soft it was almost runny yet miraculously it didn’t seem to melt fast, it just stayed that way. Most importantly, the flavors were, to put it mildly, a revelation. The pistachio had a hue and a taste that just screamed out that it was made with actual pistachios, and it was also full and bold.”–Chowhound.com
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Like other fellow Yelpers mentioned, the decor is sleek, clean, and modern. That was a very nice touch because it does draw your attention in. I asked for a scoop of pistachio and it was so good. I LOVED IT! There were real pistachios in it which adds a crunch to the smooth texture.”–Anna L.
“I sampled their pistachio because it’s basically my go-to flavor upon which to judge any gelato shop. I could tell that the pistachio was made with pure pistachio paste even from just one spoonful, and not some almond paste and green dye. The flavor was quite delicate and extremely smooth, not too nutty or artificial at all.”–Cecilia Z.
Finally, we take a look at a dessert that has become an American staple–and a hugely popular New York fad. Cupcakes can come in any variety of cake and frosting flavors (and do, on a staggeringly frequent basis!) If you’re searching for a great pistachio flavored cupcake, head to the Lower East Side, where the Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery makes some doozies. It’s not a typical flavor found in cupcakes and your taste buds will thank you: the cake is moist, the frosting sweet, and the balance of the two is perfect–you’re not left feeling empty and distant, as if you never had the cupcake to begin with, nor desperately reaching for the glass of milk because of its decadence.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery
126 Rivington St (between Essex St & Norfolk St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Pistachio cupcake. Just do it. The lightest, fluffiest, moistest (is this a word?) cupcake I’ve ever eaten.”–Carolyn W.
“I was feeling adventurous so, I got the Pistachio cupcake while my friend got the Kissable (chocolate peppermint). Both types could have gone seriously and ridiculously wrong…believe me, I know from baking experience. Instead, both cupcakes gave the pure authentic taste of just peeled pistachio and freshly minted chocolate without making us choke on overpowering aromas. The flavor melded perfectly with the utterly moist cakes and the luscious frosting that did not, in fact, leave my teeth shattering from being too sugary sweet.”–Donna F.
Is there a dish that fully satisfies your pistachio craving? Is it sweet? Savory? Delicious? Let us know about it in the comments!