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Top Chefs Say: It's OK to Go Nuts for the Holidays

Image: striped bass with pistachios (ARA) - Stroll through the produce section of any grocery store in America during the winter months and you will find a variety of delicious fruits and vegetables to easily incorporate into your next meal. Varieties of mushrooms, brightly hued squash, leafy greens, tart apples and crunchy California pistachios are just some of the colorful ingredients in ample supply.

To celebrate the bounty of the season, the California Pistachio Commission recently invited some of the most respected names in the culinary world to share their favorite pistachio-inspired recipes.

Chef Michael Cimarusti brings his passion for pure unembellished flavors and knowledge of seafood to offer a favorite recipe from Providence in Los Angeles, which recently was named one of the top 50 restaurants in the country by "Gourmet" Magazine. New York-based and widely celebrated Chef Andrew Carmellini, of the critically acclaimed new restaurant A Voce, shares a simple - yet delicious - winter salad. World-renowned Chef Norman Van Aken - owner of award-winning Norman's in Orlando, Miami and Los Angeles - offers a unique noodle dish that highlights his passion for new world cuisine. James Beard award-winning Chef Shawn McClain - owner of Spring, Green Zebra and Custom House in Chicago created a decadent and delicious soup.

The culinary community and consumers alike have always known California pistachios are a delicious snack, but many don't realize that the heart-healthy nuts can also be incorporated into their favorite recipes.

"Over the years, we have received such wonderful support from the culinary community who regularly cook with California pistachios," said Karen Reinecke, President of the California Pistachio Commission. "No matter what restaurant you visit throughout the country, it's easy to find delicious and unique dishes featuring pistachios. We're encouraging consumers to celebrate the season and add crunch and flavor to any dish."

Earlier this year, the California Pistachio Commission introduced a 40-page consumer recipe brochure, titled "America's Top Chefs Go Nuts for California Pistachios" and featuring favorite recipes from 19 other well-known chefs, including the Food Network's Tyler Florence and Gale Gand, Oprah Winfrey's personal chef Art Smith, and acclaimed chef and cookbook author Joanne Weir.

Interested consumers can download these four new recipes created in time for the holiday season or request a free copy of the "America's Top Chefs Go Nuts for California Pistachios" brochure by visiting (Please allow four weeks for brochure delivery).

Here is Chef Michael Cimarusti's recipe of a great holiday meal that incorporates pistachios, Striped Bass with California Pistachio Brittle and Wild Mushrooms:

California Pistachio Brittle

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 1/2 cups California pistachio kernels
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch fine sea salt

In a saucepan, cook sugar, corn syrup and water until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Add butter and cook until mixture reaches 280 F on a candy thermometer. Stir in pistachios and cook until 300 F. Remove mixture from the heat and stir in baking soda and salt. Immediately spread onto a greased 15 by 10 inch baking pan. When cool, break into small pieces. Reserve four pieces (or 8 tablespoons) of brittle for garnish and store excess in a clean, dry plastic container.

Wild Mushroom Medley

4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 pound mixed wild mushrooms
(chanterelles, shiitake and oyster)
1 sprig thyme
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped

Wild Mushroom Medley Method: Clean mushrooms. Melt butter in a medium sauté pan. Add chopped shallot, and sauté until translucent. Add mushrooms, sprig of thyme and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking mushrooms until most of the juice has evaporated. Remove mushrooms from heat and add chopped parsley. Set aside, keeping mushrooms warm.


6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
four 4-ounce striped bass fillets, skin on
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

Heat sauté pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season and cook the filets of bass in sauté pan skin side down until the skin begins to crisp. When the skin becomes crispy, remove the fish from the pan and place it on a baking sheet which has been drizzled with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Preheat oven to 250 F. Place baking sheet in oven. It will take about three minutes per inch of thickness for fish to finish cooking. When fish is fully cooked, remove from oven and dust each filet with 1 tablespoon of finely chopped pistachio brittle.

To Serve:
Divide mushrooms equally over four warmed plates. Place a filet of bass skin side up on each plate. Drizzle plates with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and pistachio brittle. Serve immediately.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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