Celebrated chefs Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton, Gerald Hirigoyen and Martin Yan are known and active the world over, but they all call California home. For their award-winning restaurants, product lines, cookbooks and TV shows, they draw inspiration from the bountiful fresh ingredients the Golden State has to offer.
“California is my favorite place in the world to cook,” said Puck. “The climate is such that we can get the best ingredients — the freshest produce, fish, nuts — with so much flavor.”
It’s this same culinary opportunity that drew French-born Hirigoyen, the chef and owner of Piperade in San Francisco, to California. “The food revolution — knowing where food comes from, how nutritious it is, and supporting the people who grow it — was happening in California, so I came to progress, and with all we have available, continue to progress.”
One California crop that has captured these chefs’ collective imagination of late? Pistachios.
“I find their flavor and crunch irresistible and I love the color,” said L.A.-based chef Silverton. “It’s really easy to add pistachios to almost anything you make. Their flavor enhances other ingredients so well, but they can also be the star of a dish.”
“The great thing about pistachios is they are just the right size, and they add flavor, color and texture to your dish, on top of all the nutritional benefits,” said Yan.
Long a popular snack, the trend of using pistachios for cooking appears to be spreading beyond California. American Pistachio Growers, the trade organization of pistachio farmers in the western United States, reports the sale of pistachio kernels, or unshelled nuts, domestically has risen 14%, and represents 22% of all pistachio sales. Representatives cite the reason as a combination of the increase in people preparing meals at home since the outbreak of COVID-19, and the desire for healthy ingredients.
Pistachios are nutrient-dense and high in protein. Earlier this year, pistachios earned the status of being a “complete protein,” making them popular among people following a plant-based diet. In July, a university study underscored the importance of pistachios as part of weight-loss programs.
With the world’s top chefs adding more pistachio-inspired dishes to their menus, the little green nut is suddenly red hot. But don’t worry about there being a shortage. This year’s American pistachio harvest yielded a record-setting one billion pounds.
Wolfgang Puck’s Roasted Rack of Lamb with Pistachio Sate Sauce
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Pistachio Sate Sauce:
1 cup / 230 g coconut milk
1/4 cup / 60 g lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup / 60 g pistachio butter*
1 tbsp. / 16 g soy sauce
1/4 cup / 5 g cilantro
1/4 cup / 13 g green onions, minced
2 tsp. / 30 g Aleppo chiles, or another mild citrussy chile
In a small saucepan combine coconut milk and lime juice. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly until coconut milk is hot and aromatic. Transfer to a blender and add remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste and set aside.
Rack of Lamb:
2 each lamb racks, frenched
Olive oil, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
Black pepper, freshly ground, as needed
1/2 cup / 170 g pomegranate syrup
Rub all sides of lamb racks with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle pomegranate syrup across the top of each rack and even out across surface with a pastry brush.
Roast in a preheated 450°F (232°C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes for rare/medium rare, or longer depending on preferred doneness. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Cut lamb racks between the bones into individual chops. You can plate the lamb on individual plates or a platter. Using your own presentation style, fan sweet potatoes or other vegetable on both sides of plates or platter, arrange 2 chops per person, drizzle Pistachio Sate onto plate, drizzle pomegranate syrup on top of the vegetable and sprinkle with a generous amount of pistachios, finish with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.
2 cups / 250 g pistachios, roasted
1/4 to 1/2 cup / 55 g – 110 g grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp. / 1 g sea salt, optional
Scoop pistachios into a food processor and run for 60 to 90 seconds. Open the processor and scrape the sides. Run for another 60 to 90 seconds. Scrape down the sides and continue processing. Slowly drizzle oil as needed into the butter as it’s processing until you achieve the texture and consistency you prefer. Add optional sea salt and pulse to combine.
Transfer butter to a container with a snap-on lid. Refrigerate if holding the butter for more than a few days.
Equipment Needed: Blender, baking sheets, small saucepan, whisk and pastry brush.