Why do pistachios not come shelled? That is the question I was asking myself last weekend, as my fingers became red, and raw, and sore and swollen, as I attempted to prise open another little green nut. It can’t be to do with freshness, as the shells are generally partially open; surely a shell partially open to the air is as useless as no shell at all? I would have thought so anyway. And shops can sell peanuts deshelled, and hazelnuts naked, so why not pistachios? Or was I simply looking in the wrong place? In any case, I discovered two things: one, shelling nuts ceases to be fun/glamorous/homemaker-esque after 5 minutes and simply becomes tedious and as I discovered, a little painful. Two, there are few things that can substitute for a nutcracker when you need one. This is indeed rare, as my pistachios were mainly half open, but those that weren’t were a problem. I eventually decided that my garlic crusher would make a good substitute nutcracker, which was, I think an inspired choice, only it was a little strong for such a delicate nut, and thus most of them opened this way ended up in crumbs all over the floor, shell and all. Not so helpful. Fortunately though the bits of nut, being a beautiful fresh yellowy-green colour were easy to distinguish from the bits of shell, and separate. Suggestions for a better method of shelling these in future on a postcard to the usual address please.
Pistachio and sumac-crumbed scallops with pistachio pesto
From Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume
The original recipe used 80g pistachios for the crumb coating which I was saddened to see, after so long shelling the sodding nuts, was far too much. Of course you could use the extra ground nuts for the pesto, though I would probably toast the mixture unless you’re happy with the origin of your seafood. I’ve cut the quantity here down to 50g, though I suspect that’ll still be too much.
50g shelled pistachios
1 teaspoon sumac
Pinch of salt
12 large scallops, roe removed
1 tablespoon butter, melted
150g mixed leaves (I used pea shoots and lambs lettuce)
100g pistachios, shelled
3 tablespoons parsley chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
50-100ml light olive oil
1. Place the 50g of shelled pistachios in a blender and grind to a medium-fine meal, a little coarser than polenta, with a few slightly larger pieces in there. Mix this with the sumac and salt and spread out on a small plate. Set aside.
2. Place the 100g remaining pistachios in a blender. Grind for 30 seconds or until a coarse meal. Add the parsley and lemon juice and about 50ml of the olive oil. Blend for another 30 seconds, or until a homogenous pesto is created. Check the seasoning and add a little more olive oil if you want a slightly looser sauce. Set aside.
3. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Take each scallop and brush with melted butter, then roll in the pistachio and sumac mixture until well coated. Cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the pistachios are browned and the scallops are opaque almost all the way through. Be careful when turning the scallops over that you don’t lose the pistachio coating. As you can probably see, my scallops ended up without much of their coats. Bless.
4. Serve with spoonfuls of the pistachio pesto and mixed leaves.