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In Praise of Pistachios

Friday, 14. November 2014 5:26

Pistachios growing in California's Central Valley.

Pistachios growing in California’s Central Valley.

 

A pistachio is a wonder.

For much of its growth cycle, its shell is empty. Only later does the tiny, sweet, green edible kernel grow inside.

It’s a phenomenon that has even surprised many a first time grower.

This summer, I was invited by the American Pistachio Growers to Fresno to watch the annual pistachio harvest.

There are more than 650 pistachio growers in Arizona, New Mexico and California. The Golden State boasts the most with more than 98 percent of the total growers and more than 300,000 acres of pistachio trees.

The pistachio crop may still pale in comparison to California’s almonds, which make up 940,000 acres. But pistachios remain an important crop, bringing in $1.3 billion in revenue. Indeed, the pistachio crop is expected to double in the next seven years.

With its hot, dry climate and rich soil, the Central Valley became a natural place to plant pistachios, which hail from the Middle East. In the 1960s, plantings began in the Fresno area. Nowadays, you’ll find family farms that have grown pistachios for generations.

Although they’re one of the more drought-tolerant trees, this year’s pistachio crop, which just finished harvesting, is about 30 percent lower than usual.

Tasting a just-picked pistachio.

Tasting a just-picked pistachio.

Once the kernel forms inside the shell, it keeps growing until it gets so big that it splits the shell, the sign that it is ripe for picking. Hence, the naturally created slit that pistachios in the shell possess, which makes it easier for us to crack them open with our fingers. A real treat is getting to taste a just-picked pistachio. Unlike salted, roasted ones from the store, a fresh one is softer and even more buttery tasting.

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Category:Enticing Events, General, Health/Nutrition | Comments (8) | Author:

Join the Food Gal and Pastry Chef Carlos Sanchez of Parcel 104 for A Macy’s Cooking Demo

Monday, 3. November 2014 5:25

MacysCarlosSanchez

You’re in for the ultimate sweet time when I host Chef Carlos Sanchez of Santa Clara’s Parcel 104 for a cooking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara at 6 p.m. Nov. 6.

Born in Columbia, Sanchez crafts delightful, dainty sweets served in trios that are always worth the calories. His smooth, eggy flan is the stuff of legends.

Trained in both the savory and dessert sides of the kitchen, Sanchez has incorporated such unusual ingredients as bell peppers and candy cap mushrooms into his memorable desserts.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, More Food Gal -- In Person | Comment (0) | Author:

Join the Food Gal in Conversation with Cronut Creator Dominique Ansel

Monday, 27. October 2014 5:25

Yup, the pastry meister behind the Cronut is coming to town.

Yup, the pastry meister behind the Cronut is coming to town.

 

Join yours truly as I host a Q&A with the legendary Pastry Chef Dominique Ansel at 6 p.m. Nov. 4 at Williams-Sonoma in Palo Alto’s Stanford Shopping Center.

Yes, the man who started the Cronut craze is coming to the Peninsula to sign copies of his new cookbook, “Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes” (Simon & Schuster).

Ansel, a James Beard Award winner, was classically trained in Paris and was formerly executive pastry chef at Daniel in New York.

The one and only Dominique Ansel. (Photo by Lam Thuy Vo)

The one and only Dominique Ansel. (Photo by Lam Thuy Vo)

He opened his eponymous bakery in New York in 2011. Since then, throngs have lined up each day before dawn, hoping to snag his irresistible mashup of a croissant and a doughnut. Or a Cookie Shot. Or a Waffle Affogato. Or another of his wildly whimsical concoctions.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Enticing Events, More Food Gal -- In Person | Comments (4) | Author:

Join the Food Gal and the Chef of Plaza Garibaldi for a Macy’s Cooking Demo

Wednesday, 22. October 2014 5:26

MacysPlazaGaribaldi

On the heels of Hispanic Heritage Month, Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara is proud to present a cooking demo with Plaza Garibaldi in San Jose.

Join me at 6 p.m. Oct. 30, when I’ll be hosting Kenneth Payne, executive chef of this popular, family-owned Mexican restaurant known for its home-made tortillas, mole poblano, fish tacos and other specialties.

Payne, who previously cooked at the Hayes Mansion in San Jose and Hyde Street Bistro in San Francisco, will show you how to make one of his signature dishes.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Restaurants | Comments (1) | Author:

Cinnamon, Spice & All Things Nice, Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

Monday, 13. October 2014 5:25

What's inside?

What’s inside?

 

Why do I love cinnamon? Let me count the ways.

Perhaps it all started as a kid, when my Dad and I would indulge on weekend mornings with cinnamon raisin toast slathered with butter. Truth be told, he often ate it for a late-night snack, too. Crisp, and heady with that warm, sweet, fragrant spice, who could blame him?

When I got older, and started my endless weekend baking bouts, Snickerdoodles were a favorite to make. Of course, rolling them in cinnamon-sugar was the best part.

And when I got older still, there was nothing so intoxicating as a Moroccan chicken scented heavily with cinnamon all over its beautiful bronze skin.

As a result, jars of cinnamon are always on hand in my pantry.

But nothing prepared me quite for the beauty of this container of cinnamon, which I received as a sample.

“Prosperity Cinnamon” is a lovely cinnamon bark box hand-carved with the Asian character for “prosperity.” Inside is 3 ounces of ground Vietnamese sweet cinnamon that is so fragrant, you’ll want to use it the minute you open it up.

It’s one of the many items included in the 2014 World Vision Gift Catalog.

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Category:Enticing Events, General, Great Finds, New Products | Comments (8) | Author: