There is a whole lot of tree shaking going on these days. Throughout the Valley, pistachio farmers are literally shaking the nuts off their trees with special harvesting equipment.
The Valley is the center of the nation's pistachio industry and over the course of several weeks, millions of pounds of nuts will be processed, roasted and shipped all over the world.
But if your only experience with pistachios is cracking a few over a cold beer, then you may want to check out the Pistachio Party in Old Town Clovis.
On Friday, organizers of the Old Town farmers market will salute the beloved pistachio with cooking demonstrations, free samples and lots of pistachio-flavored foods for sale – think pistachio pesto pizza, pistachio sweet tamales and pistachio ice cream.
Chef Don Waddell, head of the culinary program at the Institute of Technology at Clovis, said pistachios give dishes a nutty texture and flavor.
Waddell likes to encrust salmon or scallops with a layer of finely crushed pistachios. He sears the meat first, then encrusts it with nuts and finishes it off under the broiler.
"Pistachios have a real sweet, earthy flavor that does not overwhelm the fish," Waddell said. "It is very much a complementary flavor."
One of Waddell's chefs, David Pol, will provide the cooking demonstration at the party.
Others have their own simple ways of using pistachios. Judy Hirigoyen, director of marketing for the Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers, likes to sprinkle salt and finely crushed pistachios over thick slices of heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil.
The American Pistachio Growers is helping to host the event.
Carol Lester, executive director of the Business Organization of Old Town Clovis, hopes to stage other crop-related parties next year as a way to celebrate what is grown in the Valley.
"Fresno and the Central Valley should have a real sense of pride about what we do here," Lester said. "And this is a way to celebrate that."
The Pistachio Party will be held from 5:30 p.m to 9 p.m. in Old Town Clovis during the farmers market. Admission is free.
Sea bass with Thai curry and pistachios
1/3 cup pearl tapioca
4 stalks lemongrass
2 teaspoons galangal
2 teaspoons ginger
8 lime leaves
24 ounces coconut milk
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
1/2 cup high quality cooked white crab meat
1/4 cup fresh corn
1 bunch white scallions, sliced
Thai curry paste to taste
2 cups pistachios, shelled
20 ounces sea bass
For tapioca: Boil tapioca in water until cooked. Rinse in cold running water to remove starch.
In a small sauce pot, sweat 1 stalk sliced lemongrass, 1 teaspoon galangal, 1 teaspoon chopped ginger, and 4 lime leaves. Add 12 ounces coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes. Add a few sprigs of basil and cilantro, juice of 2 limes and salt to taste.
Simmer for 3-4 more minutes. Strain coconut milk and 1 cup of cooked tapioca and crab meat.
For corn: Clean corn from the cobs. Put corn cobs in a stock pot with enough cold water to cover.
Simmer for 30 minutes to make a corn stock and strain.
In a large sauce pan, sweat 2 stalks sliced lemongrass, scallions, 4 lime leaves, 1 teaspoon galangal, and 1 teaspoon chopped ginger. Add corn and continue to sweat. Add curry paste and 1 cup pistachios. Add corn stock and 12 ounces of coconut milk. Season with salt to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. Blend in a high speed blender and strain.
For fish: Season with salt and pepper. Sauté fish fillets until the skin is crisp and flesh is cooked through.
For garnish: Lightly toast 1 cup pistachios in the oven.
To serve: Place 2 spoons of tapioca and crab in center of bowl. Sprinkle some pistachios on top.
Place fish on tapioca. Garnish with leaves of basil and cilantro. Pour corn curry sauce around fish.
Approximate nutritional values per serving: 960 calories; 70 grams fat (37 saturated, 18 monounsaturated); 80 milligrams cholesterol; 480 milligrams sodium; 1,720 milligrams potassium; 45 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fiber; 49 grams protein.
-- Walter Manzke, American Pistachio Association
Spaghetti with pistachio pesto and mint ricotta
For mint ricotta:
3/4 cup sheep's milk ricotta
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of coarse ground pepper
1 sprig mint, chopped in thin strips
For pistachio pesto:
1/2 bunch arugula
1/2 bunch parsley
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
1/4 cup pistachio oil
1/4 cup pumpkin seed oil
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup pasta water
4 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese
To make the mint ricotta: In a bowl, mix ricotta, salt, pepper and mint together. Set aside.
To make the pistachio pesto: Blanch arugula and parsley in boiling water for 20 seconds. Immediately shock in an ice bath. Once cold, squeeze off excess water from parsley and arugula.
Place blanched herbs in a food processor along with parmesan, pistachios, kosher salt, pepper and pistachio oil. Process mixture until broken up and chunky.
Remove from processor and mix in pumpkin seed oil by hand. Reserve for later.
For spaghetti: Cook spaghetti for 8 to 10 minutes in boiling salted water. Transport pasta to a sauté pan, along with 1/2 cup of pasta water and mix in pesto.
Cook for 20 seconds.
To serve: Divide mint ricotta into 4 and place in the bottom of pasta bowls.
Place pasta on top and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Approximate nutritional values per serving: 860 calories; 40 grams fat (9 saturated, 21 monounsaturated); 30 milligrams cholesterol; 400 milligrams sodium; 600 milligrams potassium; 92 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 33 grams protein.
-- Todd English, American Pistachio Association
Chicken and pistachio 'fried rice' with fresh ginger and Chinese hot mustard
Makes 4-6 servings
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 pound chicken breast (skinned, cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
3 cups cooked white rice, cold
1 1/2 cups pistachios, shelled
1/2 cup peas
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Chinese mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup Chinese mustard greens
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
2 tablespoons pistachios, shelled, chopped (for garnish)
In a wok (or large non-stick fry pan) over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil until oil begins to smoke. Add chicken and stir fry until browned on all sides.
Remove and let drain. Meanwhile, add remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and sesame oil into wok and return to high heat. Quickly cook together ginger and garlic for 10 seconds or until fragrant. Add rice, pistachios, peas and scallions and continue stir frying for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add chicken, oyster sauce, water, mustard and soy sauce and let cook 3-5 minutes or until hot throughout. Remove from heat and season with salt if needed.
Lightly toss mustard greens in sesame oil.
To serve: Mold warm fried rice onto warm serving plates and garnish with greens, pistachios and bean sprouts.
Approximate nutritional values per serving: 500 calories; 27 grams fat (4 saturated, 13 monounsaturated); 45 grams cholesterol; 820 milligrams sodium; 670 milligrams potassium; 36 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 28 grams protein.
-- Shawn McClain, American Pistachio Association