My personal favourite – well, I have a few!
I must have been 13 when I first laid my eyes on a pistachio. I was going up the escalator in The Bay downtown (Red Deer) and a blond haired, blue eyed classmate I recognized, but didn’t know, was eating a red shelled nut from a bag, fingers and lips stained red. Firsts are memorable. We had a gathering place when I was 13. It was at the bottom of the escalator at The Bay. Thursday nights stores were open until 9pm, so we would all catch the bus downtown and usually meet there at around 6:30 on Thursdays. This was a Thursday. When it was time to head back to the bottom of the escalator, the boy was standing there with some of my other friends. I don’t remember him, but I do remember his nuts. ;0
All circled around him, as he shared; each red-lipped, licking salty fingers. “No thank you.” Oh, I wanted one. But, I was shy. I was just too shy.
Not long after, I spied a bag of them in the story, “Mom, what are these? Will you buy a bag?” They were apparently far, far too expensive. I did have my own money at the time, and wasn’t so curious as to buy myself a bag, either, recalling they were very pricy. But, one day dad came home with a bag. I think he had heard me asking about them on more than a few occasions. It was a very small bag. That was all you could buy at the time. I had never tasted anything so sumptuous. The texture was much softer than walnuts, hazel nuts and almonds. No one knew why they were red.
It was a long time after. Years, before I learned they had been dyed. Apparently, the dye was applied by importers to hide stains on the shells caused when the nuts were picked by hand. As pistachios are now picked by machines, dyeing is unnecessary.
I had pistachio ice cream for the first time in Italy. (I guess that would make it pistachio gelato.) When I saw it, I had to try it. Unforgettable! That was years ago, and I have made it many times, since, but never with results I was happy with, until now.
You can order pistachio paste online, but I bought mine in Paris at G. Detou. One large tablespoon full to my Vanilla Ice Cream recipe was all it took.
No red pistachio shells any more. No more Hudson’s Bay Company Store in that same location in Red Deer.
It was kind of sad to see it go. for years, I could go back home and snoop around The Bay, and I would always pause at the bottom of the escalator. Waiting, I would study all of the finer details of architecture there, like younger people do. The black and cream linoleum tiled floors polished over and over and over again so much that the dirt and shoe scuff marks were polished right into them. Two years of Thursday nights were spent meeting there and hanging out until the entire crowd arrived. Then we would roam the streets of the town and meet up with the Catholic kids who hung out at the corner of Kresge’s. Those really were the days.
Can you recall your first “pistachio experience”?
I didn’t discover pistachios until I was in my 20’s. My husband received a large bag of them in his stocking. From that moment on I was hooked!I had pistachio gelato for the first time in my life only this year!
You are kidding me – re: the gelato! Did you just LOVE it? OMGosh! Now I wish you were here to have some of my ice cream… it is the best I have ever tasted. Love your stories.
Kim Bee says
This looks super good. I adore pistachios. I am eating some right now. Personally I think they should be eaten every day. Even better if they were in ice cream every single day.
Every day makes sense to me – in ice cream, of course! ;0
Lizzy (Good Things) says
I adore pistachios Valerie. Pistachio ice cream or gelato is my one of my firm favourites. The best one I have ever tasted was in Budapest. Am going to try this recipe for sure. Now, I wonder where I can get that pistachio paste out here!?
The exact kind I got is far far far superior to any others. I have used many. I have never found it on line, but it may be out there somewhere.
But, the canned pastes all make better pistachio ice cream than you can make without them.
Lizzy (Good Things) says
Thanks. We have a chap who makes ice cream locally @MrFrugii and he is going to give me some of his real pistachio paste. Love your work xox
Cathy Walsh says
I absolutely love pistachios, and remember being introduced to them by my Dad, when they were still red. I also remember getting incredibly sore fingertips trying to pry open the ones that hadn’t split open fully. Still get those sore fingertips!!
Oh – I forgot about that! yes… to think there was that delicious nut meat inside that closed shell was daunting. I recall many an antic trying to get those closed little babies open!
Your pistachio ice cream looks gorgeous!
By the way, it’s really easy to make pistachio paste in your Thermomix – you can use Jean-Pierre Wybauw’s marzipan recipe and substitute pistachios for the almonds – it will save you a fortune! Home-made marzipan or pistache is really easy to handle too.(see YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od0PIjZ0OuA with Jean-Piere and myself)
If you prefer to use all natural ingredients, see my recipe: http://www.ukthermomix.com/recshow.php?rec_id=69
200 g granulated sugar, divided
200 g blanched almonds (must be completely dried)
50 to 100 g invert sugar
up to 50 g water
1. Using the built-in electronic scales, weigh the almonds and sugar into the Thermomix bowl. Grind 10 seconds/Speed 8.
2. Add the invert sugar. Mix at Speed 3 for a few seconds.
3. Add the water while the Thermomix is running at Speed 4, adding JUST enough to help the paste come together. Roll out on a surface generously dusted with icing sugar.
Thank you, Janie!
I make my own marzipan, but didn’t have a recipe for the pistachio paste – so really appreciate it! This will be what I make for the next batch! I cannot wait and really appreciate your links!
I love pistachios, but I never get them. They seem to disappear once I bring them home from the store.
Jen L | Tartine and Apron Strings says
Valerie, what a great story about the pistachios and The Bay 😉 My first taste of pistachios was in the 80’s in the Philippines…an uncle had just returned from California, bearing bags and bags of those nuts! Yes, they were crazy expensive during those times, so my parents made sure I didn’t threw them out! How could I anyway? They were awesome!
This ice cream looks heavenly! I might have to order pistachio paste from G. Detou soon so that I can make this ice cream!!!
When I came across your site, I thought it was so beautiful that I recommended it to Food Bloggers Canada to highlight. You were already on their list!
I was very familiar with pistachio gelato, but not very fond of it, to tell you the truth. I guess for the longest time I didn’t know what pistachios were. Anyway, I learned to appreciate pistachios after moving to California. And I make pistachio ice cream too, on occasion. I didn’t know you could buy pistachio paste. It sounds interesting. A few months ago, I made chocolate-covered pistachios: they are quite nice, if you like chocolate. Love the photos!
I make my own pistachio paste, as I actually happen to own a super powerful Indian blender. Here’s a quick link to it, so you can see how easy it is to make your own 🙂 Its a pain to scrape the skins off the nuts, but it does make the colour a vibrant green. http://www.thetiffinbox.ca/2010/09/pistachio-and-rosewater-gelato-ice.html
I make my gelato with rosewater, as I like the middle eastern feel that I get with the fragrance.
I have always grown up with pistachios, an advantage to growing up in the tropics, I suppose.
I know the Indian blender you are talking about. I sold a Thermomix to a woman who had one. I am embarrassed that I did not make my own paste with my Thermomix, as you see Jane has pointed out in the comments. I didn’t have a recipe for it that I liked. I have tried it – but will try both recipes now, yours and Janes!
this was also one of my favourites (but yes, i too have MANY!). i love all things pistachio. and one of my favourite easy treats is pistachio cupcakes.
I remember when I first made that pistachio pudding cake with the pistachio pudding icing you wanted me to make that you found in a magazine and you were crazy over it. The thought of the preservatives and artificial flavours in that now makes me cringe, but the good news is that knowing you love these flavours as much as I do has motivated me to develop healthy homemade versions!