Friday, March 14, 2008

Pistachio Parfaits

Pistachio Parfaits
Dorcas Annette Walker

I’ve always thought that there was something elegant about pistachio pudding, so wasn’t too surprised to find out that legend has it that the Queen of Sheba decreed pistachios to be an exclusive royal food. Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, had pistachio trees planted in his famous hanging gardens while Emperor Vitellius, in the first century, made pistachio nuts famous in the capital city of Rome. Akbar the Great hosted lavish banquets where the chickens to be used were fed pistachio nuts six to eight weeks before the banquet to add flavor to the meat. Whether it is the green spring color or rare taste, pistachios hint of history and mystery. My Pistachio Parfaits dessert will bring springtime to your table no matter what the weather may be outside for St. Patrick’s Day.

The pistachio nut is a native of Middle Eastern countries and has been cultivated for over 10,000 years. It is considered by some to be one of the oldest edible nuts on earth and is referred to in the Old Testament. The tree was first introduced to the United States by Charles Mason in 1854. Pistachio trees grow slowly to a height of 25 to 30 feet and are considered ornamental. Male and female trees must be present for the fruit to set. Small brownish, green flowers without petals bloom in the early summer producing fruit that appears like clusters of grapes. The nuts are harvested when the hull changes from green to an autumn yellow/red, becomes loose, and splits. In Iran the semi-opening shells have given pistachios the name “smiling pistachio” while in China pistachios are called the “happy nut”. The kernels are eaten whole, either fresh or roasted and salted. In the Greek Islands pistachio are cooked, preserved in syrup, and used as a sweet delicacy to serve guests. California produces almost all of the U.S. pistachios that are used commercially- some 346 million pounds in 2004- and is the world’s second largest producer. It was not until the 1930’s when vending machines became popular that pistachio nuts rose to popularity as a snack food in the United States. Pistachio ice cream was created by James W. Parkinson in the 1940’s. Today shelled pistachios are used in confectionery, ice cream, candies, bakery goods, puddings, casseroles, sausages, and for flavoring. Pistachio nuts are rich in oil with health claims that a diet of eating nuts such as pistachios will reduce the risk of heart disease and hypertension. One word of warning: don’t go overboard and buy large quantities of pistachio nuts as they are highly flammable and prone to spontaneous combustion!

My Pistachio Parfaits are a light creamy dessert interspersed with layers of rich chocolate that heightens the pistachio taste. Even my son, after a first dubious look and cautious taste, was quite impressed with the Pistachio Parfaits. Unless one is allergic to nuts this dessert is a sure winner for your St. Patrick Day celebration. The Pistachio Parfaits are simple to make only using four ingredients and takes about fifteen minutes to prepare. This recipe serves six.

Pistachio Parfaits

2 pkg (3.4 oz) Pistachio pudding/pie filling
4 c cold milk
½ (8 oz) container of cool whip
1 (11.5 oz) chocolate fudge ice cream topping

Prepare the pistachio pudding as directed and set aside. Microwave the chocolate fudge ice cream topping for one minute until soft and runny. Layer pudding, chocolate topping, and cool whip in any clear glass dessert dish/parfait finishing up with the chocolate topping. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Top with cool whip, any St. Patrick’s Day decorative, and serve!

Weekly tip: The coldest part of the refrigerator is the top back shelf and for highest efficiency, air should circulate around each container!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, syndicated columnist, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more information check out:

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