Here's Looking at You, Pistachio Butter

There is something truly special about riding in trains. As I write this, I am currently en route via train, homeward bound for upstate New York, for a wedding. As a romantic, I find travel by train both exotic and old fashioned. And I suppose this is true for most of the luxuries I hold dear to my heart.

Take my love for the movie, Casablanca; it doesn’t get any better than watching Bogart in black and white, bitter in Morocco and trying his damnedest to erase the memory of lost love. I also enjoy wedding cake as a luxury; its very nature makes it so. It’s nearly as rare as love and is often just as fleeting. I’ve been burned by missing the cake at a wedding reception on more than one occasion. It’s a terrible feeling: like my insides have been kicked out, as one notable movie character once said about getting stood up at a train station, in the rain.

And so on my 10 hour train ride home, I have time to think about things like lost love and wedding cake. Not that I mind, I get this time completely to myself. Bogart and cake aside, time may be the ultimate luxury. It certainly seems both exotic and old fashioned these days.

What is decidedly NOT a luxury—nor do I hold it dear to my heart—is the food on trains. Gone are the dining cars filled with bone china and dessert spoons. Train meals today involve sad, shrink-rapped turkey sandwiches and bags of Doritos and so I always pack my lunch. My train lunches usually involve some sort of take on the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This winter, it was cashew butter and orange marmalade. Going home in the spring involved an amalgam of almond butter and raspberry rhubarb jam. (I am as much of a sucker for sandwiches as I am for cynical movie characters.)

This morning, however, my sandwich supplies were dangerously low. I admit I have not had time on my side lately, especially not for seasonal fruit spread making. I had to think fast. Watching senor Rick battle his inner demons while eating a humdrum peanut butter sandwich on the train simply would not do. I spied some lonely pistachios and a few apricots from the farmers’ market in the fridge and got to work.

With the help of a kitchen aid, I soon had the pistachios blended to a paste and flavored with exotic spices. I spread the spiced pistachios on homemade bread flecked with anise seeds and topped them with sliced apricots.

So there you have it. Wedding cake, spiced pistachio sandwiches on trains, and Bogart: these are a few of my favorite things. One part classic, one part extraordinary. Wedding cake may be fleeting, but pistachio butter and Bogart are forever.

Cardamom Pistachio Butter

1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup (or just shy of 1/4 cup) sugar
1 1/2 tbsp almond oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I used Vietnamese cinnamon)
4 cardamom pods, pods smashed and seeds ground with a mortar and pestle and pods discarded
Pinch allspice
Pinch salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Thin out with additional water to get desired consistency. (I used about 2 tbsp.)

Makes 3/4 cup.


I froze the rest of the pistachio spread. I imagine it will be lovely on toast or a warm croissant. I may even try filling dates with it, though it might need a hint of something acidic to balance out the sweetness of the dates. If you wrapped the stuffed dates with prosciutto it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.

You could also just use ground cardamom if you don’t want to fuss with the pods, though I personally find the pod smashing therapeutic.


  1. Truly inspiring. Makes me want to take a trip on a train!

  2. Pistachio butter? What a wonderful idea.

    I agree that there's nothing quite like train travel. I went to visit a friend in DC in the fall, and the journey was a delight. I want to find the person who came up with the "quiet car" and thank them!

  3. M.K.O.R- You of all people should take more train trips. Don't worry, they still have bar cars.

    Adele - Train travel is always interesting ... and even better when eating pistachio butter! Having a computer to watch movies during your ride isn't a bad idea either. ;)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. oh my, that looks ridiculously yummy. I have to try this! - krsta