At Sitka and Spruce and Bar Sajor, Matt Dillon serves quite a few salads and small plates with a base of various ridiculously good nut purees. Though really, puree isn’t quite the right word. They eat more like a sort of nut-based hummus: rich, creamy, slightly fluffy, but packed full of the flavor of roasted nuts.
At ChefSteps, the kitchen recently did some development work with the American Pistachio Growers, and so we’ve had vast quantities of great pistachios around. Which is basically kryptonite for me, if kryptonite was really delicious and made you super happy when you ate it.
I didn’t exactly need my Nancy Drew Junior Sleuth Kit to put those two clues together.
I wrote the recipe below exactly as I did it, but I suspect it would also work in a food processor. I also suspect you could just put all the ingredients in at once, rather than drizzling in the oil and water, and that you could probably use less oil. You could certainly play with the flavor profile. I opted for lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and smoked paprika but it could just as easily be orange juice and zest and, say, ras el hanout. Whatever you do, don’t overpower the flavor of the pistachios – they should be the stars.
This recipe will make more that you need for one bunch of asparagus; it is probably about the smallest amount you can easily make in a blender though. I don’t think you’ll be too sorry having extra around. It would go equally great with raw endive or roasted cauliflower.
- 270 grams (2 cups) unsalted, roasted pistachio kernels
- 46 grams lemon juice (1 whole lemon)
- 5 grams (1 clove) garlic, thinly sliced
- 5 grams (1 teaspoon) salt
- 1.5 grams (3/4 teaspoon) ground cumin
- 1.5 grams (3/4 teaspoon) smoked paprika
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 150 grams (2/3 cup) water
- 700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) fat asparagus spears, trimmed
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Real balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction
- 33 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted, roasted pistachio kernels, coarsely chopped
- Maldon salt
- Fresh tarragon leaves
- Combine the pistachos, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cumin, smoked paprika, and half of the olive oil in the blender. With the lid on and the blender running on mediumlow speed, drizzle in the remaining oil and then the water, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Blend until color lightens and fairly smooth but not completely textureless. You may need to add a little more water.
- Taste and adjust seasoning; it will likely need more salt and possibly more lemon juice or spices, but don't overpowerr the pistachio flavor. Reserve, with plastic wrap on the surface to prevent oxidation.
- Preheat oven to 400. Toss the asparagus with a bit of olive oil and kosher salt. Roast on a baking sheet until tender, about 10 minutes. Turn on broiler (or use a blowtorch) and cook until blackened in spots.
- To serve, spoon the pistachio puree on a plate and place the asparagus on top. Garnish with the balsamic vinegar, chopped pistachios, Maldon salt and tarragon leaves.