As mentioned previously on “It’s Not You, it’s Brie,” cheese has a wide circle of friends. It’s a social animal. Circulating only amongst its own kind has no appeal to cheese; it knows that it is only as well-rounded and nuanced as those it keeps in its company and that discriminating against non milk-based products would ultimately make life less tasty.
And we all know that dairy likes to be tasty.
One thing that nearly always pairs well with cheese is nuts. Some pair better with different styles of cheeses. Pecans love blues, toasted walnuts love Alpine cheeses, hazelnuts are fond of chevre. But they like to mix it up too. Nuts and cheeses have an open relationship and sometimes (if they and their more committed partners discuss it beforehand), chevre will be seen out on the town with pecans rather than with hazelnuts, or blues will go get a drink after work with a walnut or two.
But even though a nut has a vibrant social life, sometimes it gets bored in its plain state or yearns for a little more excitement than the inside of a toaster oven.
Being pulverized and zested does the trick.
I was inspired to make this pistachio cream-paste one day while standing in the bulk aisle at a grocery shop. I was reaching for the walnut bin with plans of later toasting the walnuts to serve with Comté and Vin Jaune as the classic Jura region pairing, when bright little green pellets caught my eye.
When coming up with a cheese pairing, I consider the flavors of a cheese. Comté can taste like brown butter, butterscotch, cream, coffee, walnuts, and hazelnuts. If Comté can exhibit nutty flavors, I thought it could probably handle a little pistachio attention rather than just toasted walnuts. Since it was such a rich cheese, I knew it could handle a little zest and acidity too. Coincidently, two days prior to seeing the green nuts at the shop, I saw an article about how pastry chef Pierre Hermé makes his own pistachio paste to fill pastries. And this was how the pistachio cream was born.
Pair with a mild Alpine-style cheese like Comté, Gruyere, or Mountina. Or, with young goat cheese or mild blues. This is a loose pistachio cream recipe, not meant to be followed precisely, so add however much more sugar, honey, lemon, water, etc, that you like to achieve the textures and flavors that please you. For a twist, add a splash of rose water at the end. Or, add two tablespoons of cream to soften the flavor.
1 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Put pistachios in a food processor and grind until nuts are the texture of cornmeal. Add sugar, water, lemon zest and lemon juice and blend until a smooth paste is achieved. Add more water and blend more if the mixture isn’t shiny and smooth.
(Also delicious with chocolate!)
What do you like to eat with your Alpine style cheeses?